Since becoming a volunteer in A&E at St Richard’s Hospital, I have learnt so much about how to help people and my local community. I was encouraged to join the volunteer team to broaden my horizons and I wanted to give something back to the hospital and feel like I was part of the amazing family of NHS workers that my wife has been part of for many years.
I was the first volunteer to join A&E for many years, and as such wanted to make sure that it was successful, and that I could encourage others to volunteer too. It was a bit daunting at first: getting to know a new group of people, and not really knowing what I would be able to or expected to do. My paid job is as a Landscape Gardner, and I had no experience of the caring professions.
I was made to feel very welcome, and soon felt like a valuable member of the team. I gradually understood that a primary part of my role would be as a liaison between the medical and nursing staff and the patients and relatives. I began to feel comfortable in talking to patients in the waiting room, keeping them informed about waiting times, encouraging them to wear the correct personal protective equipment required, and ensuring that they felt welcomed and not forgotten, especially when waiting times were high.
Patients and their relatives are very anxious when attending A&E, and can often be worried and emotional. I realised that I could make a big difference to this and just by talking to them I saw them become more at ease. I helped patients to wear masks, and soon felt confident to challenge when the infection control guidance was not being followed. I knew that this was to protect patients and staff alike.
I was worried about how I would cope with seeing patients in pain or with injuries, but I soon saw how I could help them, sometimes just by informing the nurses so they could prioritise patients who I identified needed help. Patients would often not say or make a fuss, but I came to notice those patients and it felt great to know that I had made a difference.
Volunteering is multi-faceted, and you need to be able to think on your feet, and not mind what you do. I make tea, ensure the patients are fed, wash down trolleys, make beds, talk to anxious or confused patients to calm them down, liaise with the doctors and nurses, escort patients to x-ray and other wards with the nurses, fetch and carry what is needed and anything else I think I can do to help.
There are things I feel I could do, that I am not able to, such as manual handling, as this would help me to sit patients up or move them when they are uncomfortable. Now that the volunteer role is established in A&E I feel we could expand this more with the correct training to further take the pressure off nursing staff and assist them. It is sometimes frustrating that patients and staff ask me, and I can’t help them straight away.
After a few months of working there I really feel like part of the team. The staff seem genuinely glad to see me, and I feel like I make their day easier. They work so hard, and especially recently the pressure on A&E has been immense. Sometimes I take treats in for them which they love. I want them to feel appreciated for what they do. Recently younger and new volunteers have joined the team, and I have enjoyed mentoring them and showing them the ropes. I hope to be able to encourage a new generation of volunteers as I feel they are a very valuable part of the hospital.
Volunteering has been the most amazing experience for me, and I enjoy it very much. I have personally gained so much from helping people and feel I am part of the great team that care for people at their most vulnerable. I feel privileged to be able to do this.
Thank you for this insight in your volunteering and for your contribution to volunteering in the NHS from everyone at NAVSM