Establishing a Common Definition for Care Provided by Hospice Societies in BC (2022-2023)

For the first time in British Columbia, we have a consensus-based definition for the    care provided by hospice societies in our province.

We encourage you to use this common definition, and share it with your networks.

Released by The BC Centre for Palliative Care and the BC Hospice Care Association.

About the Project

In 2022, the BC Centre for Palliative Care and BC Hospice Palliative Care Association kicked off an initiative to establish a common definition of the care provided by hospice societies across BC. The project originated as a response to an action item in the Hospice Care in British Columbia: The Path Forward Report which puts forth a 10-step action plan to enhance access to integrated, high-quality hospice care for all British Columbians.

This project aims to fulfill action item 4 of The Path Forward plan, which calls for the establishment of a common definition of hospice care in BC. The establishment of a common definition will promote the use of consistent terminology, resulting in enhanced clarity for both the general public and stakeholders within the health system and community partners. This clarity will enable the full potential of hospice societies to be effectively utilized. Additionally, it will play a pivotal role in guiding advocacy efforts aimed at enhancing the quality and supporting the sustainability of care provided by hospice societies.

BC Hospice Societies

In the face of aging populations and a growing burden of chronic illness, there is an increasing need for health care providers, patients and the public to be aware of the invaluable work that hospice societies do. Currently in BC, over 70 hospice societies are distributed throughout urban, rural and remote communities in BC. Only a few of the BC’s hospice societies operate inpatient hospice facilities (also known as hospice beds or hospice residences). Collectively, these hospice societies care for roughly 10,000 clients each month. While the services provided by hospice societies may vary in scope, the focus of care is on the unmet psychosocial and practical needs of their clients including people with life-limiting illnesses and their family caregivers as well as people experiencing grief and bereavement. Hospice societies often provide their services in a variety of settings including in the person’s home, long-term care homes, hospitals, assisted living residences, and hospice facilities. Read more here: Hospice Care in British Columbia: Current State Assessment Report.

The Need

In the absence of a common definition for the care provided by hospice societies in BC, these societies are frequently mistaken to be solely related to inpatient hospice facilities that provide nursing care for people at the end of life. However, the reality is that BC’s hospice societies provide a broader spectrum of services, extending beyond the provision of physical care for the dying. This misunderstanding often leads to a lack of awareness among health care providers, family members, and patients themselves regarding the breadth of services that hospice societies offer. Consequently, hospice societies are not utilized to their fullest potential and are undervalued as a result.

Click Below To Read the Definition

hospice definition graphic


  • BC Hospice Palliative Care Association (BCHPCA)
  • Hospice Care Alliance of British Columbia

Steering Committee

  • Kevin Harter, former CEO, Victoria Hospice
  • Pablita Thomas, ED, BCHPA
  • Susan Gabe, The Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller-Vancouver Commandery (SOSJ)
  • Gretchen Hartley, Chair, Vancouver Island Federation of Hospice Societies (VIFHS)
  • Eman Hassan, ED, BCCPC

Project Team

  • Dr. Eman Hassan, Project Co-Sponsor
  • Pablita Thomas, Project Co-Sponsor
  • Della Roberts, Palliative Care Lead
  • Rachel Carter, Project Manager
  • Simon Anderson, Research Coordinator
  • Pam Martin, Evaluation Lead
  • Christie Carrington, Communications Specialist
  • Pam Warkentin, Communications Specialist
  • Lesley Johnston, Admin Assistant

For more information

Contact Rachel Carter at


Expert Panel

A panel of 56 hospice and palliative care experts from across BC including hospice societies, other community partners, palliative care leads in regional health authorities, palliative care physicians and clinicians, and persons with lived experience.

Composition of the Project's Expert Panel

Key Activities

Environmental Scan

June 2022

To identify existing definitions of hospice care, hospice society care, and hospice palliative care to inform potential components of a definition that were posed to the expert panel.

Expert Panel Recruitment

September 2022

61 hospice and palliative care experts from hospice societies, health authorities, palliative care physicians and clinicians, other community partners, and individuals with lived experience invited to join the expert panel.

Round 1: Identifying Attributes of a Definition

November 2022

53 panel participants answered questions about the relative importance of attributes of care that should be included in a common definition.

Round 2: Settling on Wording

January 2023

56 panel participants answered questions on the wording of the highest rated attributes in round 1. Attributes that were rated lower in round 1 were either excluded or reconsidered.

Round 3: Prioritizing Attributes of the Definition

April 2023

49 panel participants answered questions about the prioritization of attributes for a short and long definition. Possible wordings for some attributes of the care were reconsidered once more.

Round  4: Proposing Two Definitions

May 2023

42 panel participants answered questions about a proposed long definition and a proposed short definition. Possible wordings for some attributes of the care were reconsidered once more.

Round  5: Settling some final details

July 2023

38 panel participants settled remaining wording issues for attributes and answered questions of support for the two versions of the common definition: one brief and one more detailed.

Round 6: Endorsement of the Final Definition

September 2023

33 panel participants endorsed the final definition, including three versions; full, medium and short.

Feedback from out-of-province organizations

October 2023

Our workshop at the 2023 CHPCA conference allowed us to disseminate the endorsed common definition and receive feedback from out of province organizations.

Dissemination of Final Definition

January 2024

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