Graduates who signed up as NHS volunteers to give something back

Graduates who signed up as NHS volunteers to give something back

December 6, 2018

Young graduates with chronic health conditions who signed up as NHS volunteers to give something back land paid Health Service jobs

  • Louise Munro started volunteering at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary in January
  • The 24-year-old graduate is now a paid volunteer service co-ordinator 
  • Julian Parker started volunteering at the Isle of Man Trust last December
  • The 20-year-old has now landed a job as a healthcare assistant at the trust 

Louise Munro, 24, a graduate, started volunteering at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary in January and is now a paid volunteer service co-ordinator.

I was so shy…this has been the making of me

A volunteer once told me that no thanks are needed when you have managed to get someone to smile.

And it’s true – once you start volunteering you get hooked on the ‘high’ that comes from leaving someone in a better position than you found them.

Louise Munro (right) laughs with a patient she works with at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary

It’s a great feeling, almost indescribable and can be quite overwhelming when you know you have made someone feel better. It gives me such a warm feeling.

I started volunteering in January as a way of gaining experience for a career working with people and improving patients’ experiences in hospital.

I have a chronic condition and have spent long stints in hospital – one time I was in for a couple of months – so I know how long and boring the days can be. 

Later, I took a degree in medical sciences thinking I would get a job as a researcher in a laboratory, but by the second year I realised that it wasn’t for me.

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People have this stereotype of a hospital volunteer as a retired person who has a lot of time on their hands, but actually quite a few young people do it too, such as those hoping to have careers in the medical professions or as art therapists.

I’m quite unusual in that I ended up volunteering full time, but I started off doing a few hours a week – it was only because I enjoyed it so much that I took on more hours. 

I volunteered on six wards across the hospital including care of the elderly, orthopaedics and stroke wards trying to engage older patients in activities to improve their experience in hospital. 

I had the luxury of spending lots of time with patients, chatting to them about their lives, particularly those with dementia.

I had a trolley laden with props to encourage them to talk about their memories. It is fascinating to find out about who they are and the things they’ve experienced.

10,282 people have pledged three hours a week while 7,253 people have pledged one day a month 

I also did a training course so that I could lead a chair-based exercise class called ‘Move it or Lose it’. Only yesterday I had them all doing hand jives.

I must have played 160 games of dominoes, checkers and card games in the past few months. I love it – it’s so lovely to see them engaged, smiling and having a nice time.

I’ll also try to get patients to talk to each other more – there were four older ladies in one of the wards who were appalled that I wasn’t married yet and announced they were going to find me a man and get me engaged by the time they left hospital.

Volunteers from across the country have pledged their time to the cause 

This involved them pointing to every man who came on the ward – doctors, someone’s grandson, literally anyone – then asking if they would do. It was so embarrassing (they still haven’t found me anyone). 

My family and friends can’t believe the change in me. I was quite shy before and now I spend all day chatting to people – they say it’s been the making of me. 

Volunteering is the greatest thing I’ve ever done and it’s also given me a new career path. 

My confidence has improved and my listening skills have soared exponentially. 

Having started as a volunteer, I’m now employed by the trust as a volunteer service co-ordinator. I would not have been able to get a job like this a year ago.

Now I know I’m in the right career

Julian Parker, 20, began volunteering at the Isle of Wight NHS Trust last December and nine months later landed a job as a healthcare assistant. He now plans to study for a degree in nursing.

Julian Parker (pictured above) began volunteering at the Isle of Wight Trust last December

If someone had told me three years ago that I’d have a job as a healthcare assistant I just wouldn’t have believed them. 

I managed to get good GCSE results but never had the confidence to believe I could actually become a nurse. 

I was shy and thought that because I have a disability, it would stop me having a career in the NHS. 

I was born with myoclonus dystonia syndrome, which causes me to shake. 

So I went to college to study for a health and social care qualification thinking I might get a job as a hospital porter. 

As part of the course and to gain work experience, last December I volunteered at the Isle of Wight NHS Trust for four hours a week. Initially it was just for four months.

My role is to help make the beds, do patient surveys before they’re discharged, deliver medical notes between wards and take blood samples to the laboratory.

At first I was nervous and found it hard knocking on a patient’s bedroom door and introducing myself. 

But everyone was so friendly and the staff so patient, that I became more confident. I really enjoyed chatting to the patients about their lives. 

I’ve looked after some war veterans and heard about what they did in the Second World War, and dementia patients who can tell you about their early lives in great detail.

Looking after these people is a privilege.Volunteering made me feel like I was part of a team. 

Just knowing that I had made someone’s life better made me feel good. I enjoyed it so much that I stayed on longer after the four-month placement had finished.

All the staff said I had an aptitude for nursing and should apply for a job. When I finished my college course, I was delighted to gain a distinction and two merits (equivalent to three A levels), I applied for a job at the hospital as a healthcare assistant – and I got it!

I absolutely love my job, it’s a real vocation. Next year I’d like to apply for an apprenticeship in a hospital and study at university for a degree in nursing. 

It’s because of my volunteering that I discovered I enjoyed working with patients. I now know I’m in the right job and following the right career path. 

Let’s give hospitals a helping hand: Daily Mail launches its Christmas campaign calling for an army of volunteers to transform the NHS

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