So, briefly how would you describe your role as a volunteer?
I work on a surgical ward (Copthorn ward) every Monday morning. I go in a 7:30am and firstly I assist with breakfast on the ward, helping the patients with their food and ensuring they start the day as best as possible.
I’ll then help out with some clerical work, doing things such as checking forms have been completed properly and answering some phone calls.
How have you fit your volunteering around any other commitments?
I’m at college and also work part-time so I do have a few other commitments throughout the week. Initially, I made sure that the shift I do on the Mondays didn’t clash with any of my classes. Also, when I’m on holiday, I can sit down and ask “I can’t make this Monday morning could I work in the evening instead?” They’re always very understanding, so it hasn’t been too difficult to schedule it in.
What would you say is the most enjoyable part of your job?
Definitely interaction with patients, in particular watching them progress through their recovery. Going in a week later and seeing their improvement is really nice.
When I first started I helped care for a patient and it was nice to come in each week and for us to both grow together, for me into my job on the ward, and for them towards recovery. That was probably the highlight of my volunteering so far.
What made you initially decide to become a volunteer at SASH?
I had some free time around my studying and volunteering and felt it was important to give something back to the community.
I’d also like to train to become a paramedic once I’ve finished at college and so I decided it was important to experience the healthcare system before I made an application.
What skills do you think you’ve learnt relative to those you’ve learnt at college?
My part-time jobs also require a large degree of caring, so I’d say the biggest area for me was the understanding of medical terms and the way a ward, or even a hospital works.
I’ve been a patient here a few times, having broken bones or what-have-you but volunteering here you see a completely different side to it.
I’d also say my answering of the phone has got a lot better. I never used to want to pick it up but now it’s fine. So, I’d say my self-confidence has improved as well.
Do you think volunteering will aid any application you make for a job?
Absolutely, obviously it is quite crucial to have some healthcare experience when applying for a job in that sector but, also, I feel it shows commitment to come and volunteer week in week out, as well as an ability to communicate with people, which is very useful for any job application.
Your reasoning for volunteering can be wide reaching, from an opportunity to meet and socialise with new people to developing skills allowing you to follow a new career path. Jane Kenny, a previous volunteer at East surrey Hospital who now works part-time as a nursing assistant on Tandridge Ward, discusses her story.
Jane, what led you to begin volunteering within the hospital?
I cared for my mother until she sadly passed away around a year ago. At the time I was also in the process of applying for a position in a bank. The passing of my mother was obviously very upsetting, so I put the job at the bank to one side and thought of other part-time career options.
I had always been a carer, initially with children and then for my mother. So, caring for people on a ward seemed somewhere I could help make a real difference.
I started my training as a nursing assistant; however, I felt the recommended days of experience on the wards before becoming qualified wasn’t quite enough, and thus began volunteering on Tandridge Ward.
What sort of things did you do as a volunteer on Tandridge ward?
Tandridge is a dementia ward, and so I did a lot of things to help comfort the patients by talking to them, being a voice of reassurance, and trying to explain their situation. I also was able to help the patients at meal times and so on.
Additionally, as I knew I wanted to start working as a nursing assistant, the volunteering taught me things about how the ward worked, cleanliness and where things are kept.
Did you find your role as a volunteer satisfying?
Hugely! Simple things like discussing and sharing old stories with the patients gives a sense of humanity and enjoyment to both the patients and you.
The joy of being a volunteer is that you aren’t involved in essential roles required for the hospital to run. You could bring in a bag of souvenirs or a CD player and just chat to patients for a couple of hours. This isn’t always possible when you’re employed as a nursing assistant.
I also felt really valued as a member of a team which was nice, ‘Thank goodness it’s Jane’, ‘Oh, brilliant we’ve got an extra body’ or ‘Jane, could you take X for a walk to the dementia garden?’ It was really nice to feel valued by both the staff and patients.
So, do you think you learnt any particular skills whilst being on the ward?
Oh, so many. Observations of patients was a big one and useful for my nurse training. Also, working on a dementia ward I learnt how to act and behave around a variety of patients to best suit their care needs.
It’s not boring, that’s for sure, and its ever changing meaning each day you come in you’ll learn something new.
What sort of role do you think is best to volunteer in?
Go with your gut. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong place to volunteer within the hospital. For me personally, Joy (volunteer manager) suggested Tandridge, perhaps as my mother suffered with dementia. However, if you’re more children-orientated then perhaps a paediatric ward would be better suited and more satisfying for you.
You need to be clear in your mind when you begin volunteering whether you want to be more patient-orientated or admin-based.
Finally, what changes have you noticed as you transition from a volunteer to an employed nursing assistant?
I mean, obviously you have slightly less time to just sit and chat to patients which I really enjoyed.
I guess the main one is the switch from a four-hour shift as a volunteer to 12-hour shifts I currently work as a nursing assistant. That’s what’s been the most difficult to adapt to. Having said that it’s really nice to work together as part of the team, even the physio or the cleaner will come over and help you if you need.
Volunteering brings with it a wide-range of benefits such as increased self-confidence, the learning and development of skills, and the opportunity to meet new people. It can open up a whole host of opportunities as our previous volunteer Vicky found. Now employed with SASH, Vicky has kindly agreed to share her experience of volunteering with us and how it helped her to gain employment.
What was your volunteering role and what is your current job in the NHS?
So I used to help Joy (SASH volunteering manager) out in the volunteers department so filing and sorting out new volunteers, trying to work out who was still volunteering, that sort of thing. I’m now an administrator, assisting the surgical governance team which includes helping with reports, complaints, etc.
Do you enjoy it?
Yes, yes. It never seems to be the same thing twice or the same thing each week.
So what made you initially decide to volunteer with SASH?
I’d done a lot of volunteering and I don’t live too far from the hospital so it was a good fit. I also wanted to give back to the NHS.
So tell me a little more about the process of transferring from a volunteering role to an employment role?
So I decided to go onto bank for temporary work staff and because I’d done the volunteering here it helped because people knew me here and then I could get a reference to get onto the bank staff. I had been volunteering in the department that I work at now which really helped me get this role.
So did the volunteering team help you apply/give you advice?
Yes, Joy got forms for me and I was able to get a reference from her so it all really helped towards it.
So how did your volunteer work prepare you for your current role?
It helped me get to know the system and because I had been volunteering in the same department with the same sort of admin roles, volunteering led really nicely into my job and allowed me to build on top of the skills I had learnt.
How has your overall experience been with SASH?
It’s been very positive, everyone’s really friendly here it’s a lovely team. Yes, it’s been a very positive experience.
And finally, what advice would you give to anyone thinking about volunteering? Particularly those who are looking to get into work?
Especially for those trying to get into work I know that trying to build references to get towards a job is important and volunteering can help you with that. So if you start volunteering, it firstly helps you get to know whether you like it here or not. That always helps. Then if you volunteer you can get to know all the different places you could work in the hospital.