Active Listening by Hospital Chaplaincy Volunteers

Benefits, Challenges and Good Practice


  • Ana Manzano University of Leeds
  • Chris Swift Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
  • S. Jose Closs University of Leeds
  • Michelle Briggs Leeds Beckett University



active listening, hospital chaplaincy, volunteers, health communication


Active listening (AL) is a communication technique frequently used in counselling. This study explored the feasibility of implementing a ward based AL intervention for patients by chaplaincy volunteers in the UK National Health Service. Seven focus groups (n=47) included healthcare researchers, lecturers, nurses, patients, AL tutors, active listeners volunteers and chaplaincy volunteers. Acceptability and perceived effectiveness of a patient/volunteer listener intervention were explored. Analysis followed the framework approach. Four themes emerged: (a) Listening as a wellbeing generator; (b) Benefits of AL delivered by volunteers; (c) Spirituality and public perceptions of hospital chaplaincy; (d) Challenges of structured communication techniques in acute care. Participants reported positive attitudes towards the introduction of AL provided by volunteers in acute wards. They shared a common belief that when people are listened to, wellbeing improves through control, choice and empowerment. Patients’ acceptability of the intervention increased if it was delivered by volunteers.

Author Biographies

Ana Manzano, University of Leeds

Dr Ana Manzano is Lecturer in Health and Social Policy, in the School of Sociology and Social Policy, Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law at the University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.

Chris Swift, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Chris Swift has been Head of Chaplaincy at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals since 2001. Between 2004 and 2007 he was President of the College of Health Care Chaplains. Since obtaining his PhD in 2005 from the University of Sheffield he has continued to research and publish and was instrumental in establishing the MA in Health & Social Care Chaplaincy at Leeds Metropolitan University in 2011. Chris is a module leader on the MA and also holds an honorary research fellowship at the University of Leeds. He is a member of the editorial board for the Christian social responsibility journal, Crucible, and has served on the editorial team of the UK's Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy for many years prior to the agreement to publish Health & Social Care Chaplaincy.

S. Jose Closs, University of Leeds

S. Jose Closs is Professor of Nursing Research, School of Healthcare, University of Leeds, UK.

Michelle Briggs, Leeds Beckett University

Revd Professor Michelle Briggs is Professor of Nursing, School of Health and Community Studies, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK.


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How to Cite

Manzano, A., Swift, C., Closs, S., & Briggs, M. (2015). Active Listening by Hospital Chaplaincy Volunteers: Benefits, Challenges and Good Practice. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, 3(2), 201–221.