ALICE (Active Listening in Chaplaincy Evaluation)

20 Sep 2016, 1:42 p.m.



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In June 2016 the Acorn team headed to Bishopthorpe Palace, York, to present ALICE, a research project in partnership with Leeds Beckett University exploring the feasibility of developing and implementing the Acorn Listening module in healthcare environments. You can find the summary research report below, which we believe is very interesting!

Although recognised as an essential skill for health professionals, there is a paucity of research that explores active listening in healthcare settings. Most research has explored active listening alongside other communication skills rather than a stand-alone skill. Available evidence shows that volunteers are increasingly regarded as an essential part of the NHS workforce and there is a need to train and manage volunteers properly that is highlighted.

Against this background, this research project explored the feasibility of developing and implementing a hospital-based active listening intervention for patients delivered by chaplaincy volunteers in the UK NHS and to explore its potential to impact on patients’ well-being.

During this joint research four key themes emerged from the data:

1.Listening as a wellbeing generator

2.Spirituality and public perceptions of hospital chaplaincy

3.Benefits of Active Listening being delivered by volunteers

4.Challenges of using a structured communication technique in hospital

In the NHS, Hospital Chaplaincy departments have a long standing reputation of supporting volunteers and the numbers have started to increase in hospital settings. However, there is a paucity of research which specifically explores the role of lay unpaid chaplaincy volunteers, particularly in relation to active listening skills. Listening to patients remains one of the key contributions to healthcare institutions.

The importance of exploring the impact and scale of volunteering in the NHS relates to the need to re-think the role of volunteers and also to add to the evidence base for the impact of volunteers on patient’s outcomes (i.e. improved wellbeing, health behaviours, pain relief etc.).

The approach to undertake the research had three stages:

Phase 1. To assess the acceptability and clinical utility of the proposed intervention

Conclusion of Phase 1 – Current patient care models do not allow enough time or recognition for listening encounters with patients. Despite organisational barriers embedded in acute care, healthcare professionals and patients emphasised the positive effect listening can have on patients.

Phase 2. To develop a tailored intervention for use with NHS volunteers and deliver the training package in an acute hospital setting.

Conclusion of Phase 2 – The course required a sustained commitment in terms of time and motivation. The NHS chaplaincy manages this well and the volunteers rose to the challenge. The completion rate was 58% and this should born in mind for future planning.

Phase 3. To carry out a feasibility study in an acute hospital for use in both inpatients and outpatient settings.

Conclusion of Phase 3 – The evidence gathered in this study demonstrates that the provision of active listening in a hospital setting is able to address an unmet need and is feasible to deliver in an acute setting.

The project was undertaken in partnership with Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust Chaplaincy Services; the Oncology Department in St James’s University Hospital Leeds; School of Healthcare, University of Leeds and School of Health and Community Studies, Leeds Beckett University. Lead Author of Research was Revd Prof Michelle Briggs, Professor of Nursing at Leeds Beckett University.

The ALICE Project was sponsored by Acorn Christian Healing Foundation, which is a registered charity in England, Wales, and Scotland. It provides a number of services including active listening courses at different levels of expertise. Rooted in its Christian heritage the values it operates by are shaped by the paradigms we hold about God, about humankind, about the nature of ministry and serving others, and about how all of this is expressed in the context of community.

Sponsors of ALICE

• Souter Charitable Trust

• Newman Charitable Trust

• The Inlight Trust

• Hospital Saturday Trust

• St Paul’s, Camberley

• The Plum Trust

• Henry Smith Charity

For copies of the Summary or Full Report, or to speak with a member of the research team, please contact: or telephone 01420 478121