Last year we asked Mail readers to sign up for the NHS – and an incredible 34,000 signed up for our Hospital Helpforce campaign, increasing the number of NHS volunteers by about a third. Those who give up their time to help the NHS are truly inspiring and their willingness to go the extra mile is now recognized in the annual Helpforce Champions Awards. The last winners were announced last Friday. If you still have doubts about the importance of volunteering, read on to hear some of their uplifting stories. . .
I love the feeling of satisfaction
A-level student Maisy Vincent, 17, from Falmouth, volunteers at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske, Truro, to support dementia patients. She won the prize for the Young Volunteer of the Year. She says:
Maisy Vincent, 17, from Falmouth, won the prize for the Young Volunteer of the Year
As part of our school curriculum, there is an enrichment program where you can choose to do non-academic activities during school time – last year I started volunteering at the Royal Cornwall Hospital to find out how the NHS works because I was quite interested studying medicine.
It was a great experience and I think the time I spent volunteering really helped me grow up.
It may be surprising, given my age, that I chose to volunteer with dementia patients, but I spend a lot of time with my grandparents and feel that you can learn so much from older people. I thought that I would benefit the most.
I play board games with the patients and make cups of tea, but most of the time I just sit and listen to them. Many dementia patients like to talk to someone young and it often evokes memories of their own youth.
They may not remember much about what they have recently done, but they will have very clear memories of what they did at the age of 17.
I find it fascinating to hear about their lives – some of them are war veterans and others have talked about how rationing was.
It is very worthwhile to involve them and I think it also helps their trust. I like the feeling of satisfaction when I leave, because the people I have spoken with usually seem a bit more right and chirpier. I feel that I have done well.
Sometimes I have mistaken patients for their mother or daughter, but I do not correct them, because it often makes them restless – and it doesn't hurt to make them think so.
It can be challenging work, but I have learned techniques to calm patients, such as changing the subject and engaging them in something else.
My volunteer work – two hours every Wednesday afternoon – has taught me patience and I have learned how to actively listen to people, use eye contact and open questions to bring people into conversation. I also met so many people with different backgrounds.
I would like to be a member of such a great team. It has all been confirmed to me that I want to work in a field where I can help people, so I am applying at Manchester University for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.
We live in very turbulent times and I think these skills will be needed more and more. What I have experienced here is priceless.
My experience has proved invaluable
For four years, Clare Horn, 49, from Ormesby, near Middlesbrough, has been part of the team of volunteer-supported volunteers from the South Tees NHS Foundation Trust. She is one of 20 people with disabilities who use their experience to help patients. The team won the Celebrating Inclusion and Diversity in Volunteering Award. Clare says:
As a wheelchair user born with Spina Bifida, I spent half of my life in the hospital – but five years ago, after being stuck in a ward for three weeks, I had reached my lowest ebb. I was bored and felt pain, felt terribly low and alone.
Clare Horn, 49, from Ormesby, is part of the team of therapeutic care supported volunteers run by South Tees NHS Foundation Trust
Due to continuous kidney infections and hospital admissions, I had to give up the job I loved as a municipal administrative assistant. Although my family came to visit, they could not always be there – and the beautiful nurses were flooded.
Then a volunteer, Dominique, suddenly appeared at my bedside "for a chat." The next hour she really excited me: Dominique was almost 20 years younger than me, but her wonderfully warm personality meant that we clicked immediately. Then, just before she left, she said: & # 39; You can also be a volunteer. & # 39;
At that moment something changed in my head.
I applied to become a volunteer and four months later, in March 2015, when I was fully recovered, I returned to James Cook Hospital in completely different circumstances – I joined the team of 20 therapeutic caregivers and went to four – hours of volunteer shifts two or three days a week.
The night before I started, I was so excited that I couldn't sleep.
My own life experience as a wheelchair user has proved invaluable on the spine, where I often speak to patients who are in shock after accidents, who are in great pain or are paralyzed. Many feel that their lives are over.
A patient in his forties had a hard time adjusting to sitting in a wheelchair and was very low when I first started visiting him. But within three weeks I saw a difference. We are laughing well now and on my last visit I challenged him to a wheelchair race in the ward. I let him win and by the end he was in a shower.
Our entire team has contact with patients in a unique and valuable way through their own experiences.
There is Brian, a deaf volunteer, who communicates with sign language around the departments, and Dominic, who has Down syndrome and is paralyzed from the waist down and, like me, talks to spinal cord patients.
Volunteering has made me so much happier – I missed my old job, but volunteering has given me a sense of purpose. It has become my greatest achievement – and makes me proud of who I am.
No patient can ever die alone
Carole Lyons, 75, a former Merseyside accountant, and Jed Barker, 75, a retired street paving machine, from Aintree, are part of the end-of-life team at Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool. The team won the prize for Outstanding Volunteering Team of the Year. Carole says:
Shirley Bassey & # 39; s Big Spender is not a song that you would normally associate with death. But when I hear it now, it immediately takes me back to a room where I held the hand of a dying man and we tied it together.
I was getting ready to finish after a four-hour shift in July. The manager told me that a patient was so afraid of dying that he would not sleep. His wife, who had been at his bed from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., was physically and emotionally exhausted.
When I arrived, the scene was tense. The patient's wife looked exhausted and her husband looked terrified. When she left the room for a much needed break, I started talking to him about music and he mentioned a Shirley Bassey CD.
I turned on the music, he started to sing and asked me to participate. And, as we moved on to other Bassey songs, and when Vera Lynn sang together, his grip on my hand diminished. He relaxed and fell asleep.
Carole Lyons, 75, (right) a former Merseyside accountant, and Jed Barker, 75, (left) a retired street paving machine, from Aintree, are part of the end-of-life team at Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool
The next day he was moved to his own house to die surrounded by loved ones. He was where he wanted to be and I hope some of the fear had disappeared.
I first started volunteering in 1968, with tasks such as providing refreshments and helping patients who were limited to their bed.
Three years ago I moved to the end-of-life team, which means that I can be called to the bed of a dying patient at any time. If I get a call from volunteer staff or the switchboard when I'm home in the evening or on the weekend to say that a patient needs company, I jump on the bus and be at their side within 20 minutes.
The experience of losing my own mother in 1994 plays a major role in why I do this. Mama read the newspaper when I went to make us both a cup of tea, but when I walked back into the room, she was dead. I called 999 because I was so in shock. I will never forget the consultant in Casualty who said to me: "She died peacefully and was not alone. There was no sign of tension on her face at all. & # 39;
Now I can say the same to family members who arrived just after the death of a loved one – that they were not alone. I know the difference that makes the worst moment in your life.
Sometimes you feel sad, but when someone has had a hard day, the end-of-life team supports each other by talking things through. We say that no patient should ever die alone, but this incredibly caring, close-knit team means that we are never alone. We ensure that we are strong enough to be strong for others.
Says Jed: I realized for the first time that I could listen well when I helped lead a youth club in the church 30 years ago. I am an optimistic person and I seemed to make them feel better. I enjoyed it so much that I qualified as a counselor at the time. I came to the hospital for the first time as a volunteer just to gain some experience working with people, and actually I never left.
We founded the End Of Life Companions group in 2012 – it was the first ever in the NHS and since then many hospitals have asked us for advice on setting up a similar service. We are all 30 volunteers and although the work sounds tough, I think it is an absolute privilege to be with someone at the last minute. You don't have to have qualifications for this, you just have to be a caring person with a big heart.
The first thing I do when I go in (I work for 4 hours every Wednesday) is to check the diary to see who needs support – if there are no requests, I walk around the departments and ask the nurses, like they do always have someone who needs a companion.
Most people are grateful to have someone with them at the end, but sometimes a patient will say they want to be alone and I respect that and leave.
Sometimes the patient just wants to hold a hand, but we can help in other practical ways – perhaps by cleaning their mouth with a sponge shaped like a lollipop or, if we think they are in pain, alerting the nurses.
One of the most rewarding things is when family members return and work with us as volunteers because they have found the support we have found so valuable to them. That gives me the feeling that we are doing something right.
HERE YOU CAN BE A NHS VOLUNTARY
It has been almost a year since the Daily Mail joined forces with Helpforce – a charity to encourage people to volunteer in the NHS – for a campaign to recruit more helpers. Nearly 34,000 people responded to the Mail call, a huge boost on top of the 78,000 volunteers who are already helping the NHS. Although Helpforce is currently not making new volunteer requests, if you want to help the NHS, you can contact your local hospital directly to see if it is handling applicants.
Which roles may be available?
Everything you can imagine that does not require clinical qualification. Volunteers help in A&E, staff hospital shops and even run corn for dementia patients.
Is being social a requirement?
No, there are many roles where you don't have to chat much, from admin to delivering blood donations. You will be asked about your preferences when you discuss available roles with the volunteer manager at your local hospital.
Can I go free?
Each hospital has its own policy in the area of volunteer hours, but in all rescues or vacations when needed, that is reasonably possible.
I applied but no contact has been made yet
Volunteer managers at the hospital work hard to get in touch with anyone applying, but it can take a while – so be patient.
- An update for those who have previously signed up for the Mail / Helpforce campaign – for those who are still waiting, you can search for roles directly at: helpforcelive.community.
I have overcome my embarrassment
Pippa Gardelio, 21, is a student of biomedical sciences and a volunteer for healing arts – a collaboration between the Northumbria NHS Foundation Trust and Northumbria University, who has won the prize for Partnership Working in Volunteering. The student volunteers provide art activities for older patients. Pippa, from Tynemouth, began volunteering at the North Tyneside General Hospital in April. She says:
Pippa Gardelio, 21, started volunteering at the North Tyneside General Hospital in April
At the age of 70, Joan lived alone and was proudly independent. But when I met her in a hospital with dementia, she was wounded, scared, angry – and lashed out.
Joan was rushed to the hospital after he got confused late, walked into her yard, and fell.
When I arrived the next morning for my volunteer work, she looked terrible. Her neck was bruised and she had painful cuts in both her arms.
And she was absolutely terrified. When I asked if she wanted to become a member of the art group that I had in the dayroom, Joan waved me off. & # 39; I don't want it, & # 39; she shouted. & # 39; I want to go home! & # 39;
With that, she turned her chair away from me and pulled a newspaper over her face.
But after I started the lesson, Joan came closer. Then she participated, mixing paints and carefully coloring a flower.
An hour later she smiled and relaxed. When we left, she said: & # 39; Thanks, dear. & # 39;
Joan did not understand why she had been taken out of her house – but an hour of mixing colors and concentrating her fear had disappeared.
The following week, when I went back, Joan eagerly waited for the painting lesson – and a week later I heard that she was fired. I know it wasn't just my lessons – but I have so often seen the remarkable way that the art, music, puzzles and chat that volunteers offer can make a huge difference to dementia patients.
I signed up as a volunteer during my fresher week at Northumbria University in 2018 – I wanted to learn more about healthcare and push myself, because I'm naturally shy. I started in April this year and did a 90-minute session every week.
The university group already had 23 volunteers working in the department, and we formed a really close team.
There is no doubt that it has changed me. When I started at the university, I wanted to work in laboratories. But volunteering has shown me how much I enjoy dealing with people and helping them – and how far I have overcome my shyness. I intend to follow a nursing degree.
All the encouragement I need comes from the patients themselves. When we made a puzzle with a picture of a local beach, a patient, Ethel, remembered this and described in great detail how she, as a little girl, loved ice creams there. She closed her eyes with pleasure and I know she almost felt the sea and the wind on her face again.
That is the magic of volunteering.
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