Characteristics and experiences of volunteers in a psychiatric hospital setting : a qualitative case analysis : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University
The primary aim of the present research was to describe the characteristics and experiences of all of the volunteers in a psychiatric hospital setting. A second aim was to relate the findings to current theories and evidence on volunteers. A third aim was to explore practical implications of the findings from an organisational perspective.
A qualitative case approach was adopted which used an interview schedule formulated for the present research to address general issues of motivation, expectation, satisfaction, and involvement. Specific questions concerned volunteers' initial expectations, reasons for volunteering, what the volunteers actually do, good and bad experiences, changes in perceptions of volunteering, difficulties and how coped with, perceived need for help, support, and training, extent of involvement, and, reasons and intent to continue. In addition, the 'Perceived Rewards from Volunteering Scale' (Gidron, 1983) was used to provide a quantitative measure of job satisfaction. Information about respondents' gender, age, ethnic background, marital status and dependent children, socioeconomic status, religion, residence, regular commitments, other volunteer work, and time spent as a volunteer was also recorded.
The group consisted of 34 middle to late middle aged women, who were church based, and resident in a small rural community. Analysis of the results were made for the group as a whole but predominantly at the case level, using techniques of pattern matching and explanation building as described by Yin (1984).
The case approach makes difficult a satisfactory summary of the main findings, however, notable results included a sociodemographic profile of the present volunteers not atypical of the general population, that volunteers rated that they were satisfied with their work, similar good and bad experiences by all volunteers, different perceived roles of their work by individual volunteers, and evidence of volunteer participation as a changing phenomenon.
The utility of the present approach supports both the integrative model of Smith & Reddy (1972) and the need for further development of theories within an integrative framework. A number of practical implications were drawn, particularly concerning the need for training and information, monitoring the progress of volunteers, and for general hospital policy in the recruitment and utilisation of volunteers. Suggestions for future research were also made.