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Palliative Care Volunteers: A Program of Compassion

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 68 Issue: 4 Dated: July 2006 Pages: 38-40
Art Beeler
Date Published
July 2006
3 pages
This article describes the development and implementation of the palliative care program at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, NC, a program of inmate volunteers providing assistance to those who are dying.
The palliative care program was established in the Federal Medical Center in Butner, NC to provide comfort to inmates who are dying, to serve as a reconciliation bridge with family members, and learn about themselves in the process. This program consists of inmate volunteers trained in the needs of dying patients, in developing empathy, in understanding boundaries, and in assisting with reconciliation. Developing reconciliation has been perhaps one of the most rewarding parts of the program. Inmate volunteers assist patients in bridging communications with estranged family members. In addition, there is a great deal of discussion about self-care and the need for supportive therapy for inmate volunteers. These inmates and staff palliative care workers have also learned much in providing these services. One lesson is to emphasize advance directives; documents signed by an inmate entering inpatient status and expressing their wishes for treatment. Another lesson learned is that space should have been devoted to a true hospice area. When the Federal Medical Center opened in 2000, one of its missions was to treat cancer patients. Since beginning oncology treatment in 2002, almost 28,000 treatments to more than 2,100 patients have been provided. During 2005, the center experienced 110 deaths with 77 attributed to cancer. There was a need identified to provide ways for coping with death and dying with dignity and compassion in the prison environment; hence, the creation of the palliative care program. References