The Sacred Role of an End-of-life Doula

April 11, 2022, Doula, Hospice

The Sacred Role of an End-of-life Doula

Just as birthing doulas offer help to laboring mothers, end-of-life doulas comfort and provide support to individuals on their deathbed. There is sacredness in both roles, at each end of the life spectrum.

In its tenth year, Gilchrist’s end-of-life doula program prepares volunteers to sit bedside with patients as they are actively dying. Volunteers offer non-clinical support to the patient and family, and they receive comprehensive training on end-of-life issues such as grief, holding space for someone, signs of approaching death, and cultural perspectives on death and dying.

What does an end-of-life doula do?

Gilchrist doulas can provide care in a patient’s home or residential care center, in one of our inpatient hospice centers, or in one of the hospitals our Mobile Hospice Response Team partners with. An end-of-life doula may be alone with a patient who doesn’t have a family or whose family cannot be there, or they may provide emotional support to an anxious caregiver. Doulas may sit in silence, offer Caring Touch or Reiki, play soft music, or read to the individual. Their job is to be present.

Gilchrist’s end-of-life doula program was recently featured in a WebMD story about doulas, with a family member describing how impactful her Gilchrist doula was: “She sat with my dad for as long as three hours and held his hand so I could leave the room…She was someone to talk to, to cry to, to let those things off your chest.”

Doulas can truly make a profound difference and help individuals experience “a good death” while bringing comfort and peace of mind to family members.

We are so grateful to our more than 50 end-of-life doula volunteers who act as an extension of both our clinical teams and the patients’ own support networks. Doulas are a vital part of the work we do.

Want to become an end-of-life doula?

Gilchrist volunteers who are compassionate, have good listening skills, and have been a patient care volunteer for at least one year are eligible for our end-of-life doula training. The next session will be in the fall of 2022.

For more information on how to become a Gilchrist volunteer or to sign up for this specialized training, contact Jane O’Hara, Volunteer Recruitment Coordinator at or 443.849.8376.

To learn more about Gilchrist’s Volunteer program, visit To support our work, visit

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