This chapter discusses the place of volunteering in palliative care in the context of hospital services in France, and the meaning each actor gives to that presence. Its aim is to go beyond general normative discourse on the role of these volunteers in order to highlight their actions from a little-explored perspective (awkwardness, fears, reticence their activity can create) but one essential to their development. We attempt to understand how (and within what work settings) personnel and volunteers “work” together, and how that lay presence is perceived by patients and families. This research is based on a literature review and individual semi-structured interviews with patients, families, medical personnel, and volunteers in 10 hospitals. In all, 114 persons were interviewed in three work settings: palliative care units, mobile palliative care teams, and traditional services. The analysis highlighted a diversity of perceptions on volunteering, as a function of the type of actors involved and the work setting. It raises the question of the role of nonprofessional actors in hospitals, and of what form volunteering in palliative care should take in France, where volunteers explained they “are there” not “to do”, but just “to be there out of human solidarity”.
Part of the book: Highlights on Several Underestimated Topics in Palliative Care