Young Person’s Volunteering Programme: Charlotte

Our evidence shows that volunteering improves communication skills and confidence and facilitates personal challenge and growth. The opportunity to volunteer is also seen as beneficial by Higher Education providers; although not all of the young people participating are seeking future careers in the health sector. More details about the programme are available here.

Bethany completed the programme while studying for her A levels.  She explains:

“I first started volunteering with Addenbrookes as part of the Young Persons Programme, after which I became a ward volunteer.  I also help out by mentoring new volunteers when they first start on their wards.  Getting to chat to new people is a highlight of my week, and I love hearing the different stories patients have to tell! The opportunity to experience a hospital setting and find out how best to talk to patients has helped me pursue my aspirational career as a medical professional, but no matter what your chosen career, you can still learn great communication and teamwork skills by volunteering at Addenbrookes.

It’s amazing the difference just a couple of hours of your time can make to the experience of patients in hospital; a chat and a cup of tea can really brighten their day!”

Profile: Owen

Each day offers new experiences and an opportunity to make a tangible difference to someone’s well-being. Notably, the ‘dementia champion’ role enables us to make a meaningful difference to patients and their families, whose needs are often overlooked by society. The volunteering service at the Cambridge University Hospitals provides an excellent work environment by continually offering opportunities to equip you with relevant training and always providing a helping hand to ensure that you never feel alone.

As a PhD student researching ageing diseases such as those in dementias, I have found this opportunity profoundly insightful as it offers context as to how these conditions may manifest in individuals and why research is necessary to combat these illnesses. For me, the highlight of this role is seeing how meaningful my small contribution may be, especially reflected in the smile on the patients’ faces.

Profile: Philip

The role involves approaching a list of patients that has been drawn up by the major trauma team and asking them if they would be happy to complete the form themselves or sometimes, (usually for the more elderly patients and those whose arm might be in plaster), offering to read the questions and recording the responses on their behalf.  Since there is no dedicated trauma ward in the hospital, the patients can be located all over and it is a great way to boost my daily steps!   I have quickly learned that route planning is essential to avoid having to back-track and this is the first thing that I do each session.

It is an immensely satisfying role which brings me into direct contact with patients.  I never fail to be amazed by the fortitude of the patients, some of whom have sustained life-changing injuries. Nonetheless all of them seem to have a very positive attitude and are so grateful for the wonderful care that they are receiving at Addenbrookes.

The survey is part of a national audit and aims to find ways to make the trauma service in NHS England even better.  I am very pleased to be playing a tiny part in that.

Profile: Lisa and Poppy

Poppy my large labradoodle was 6 years old at the time and displayed all the characteristics to be an amazing therapy dog.  I registered with Pets as Therapy, Poppy passed her assessment with flying colours, and we were fortunate to be accepted to volunteer at Addenbrookes at the end of 2019.

Poppy took to the role immediately; her tail starts to wag as soon as I reach for her special therapy dog lead and bandana from the cupboard, she clearly loves going into the hospital. Each week we spend 2 hours visiting various children’s wards where Poppy is adored by the children, parents, staff and visitors.  She loves the cuddles and the treats which the children feed to her, and it sometimes feels as though she eats her body weight in treats during her visits!

Its difficult to put into words the effect Poppy has during her visits, from the smiles, to sometimes tears from people who are missing their own dogs at home during their stay in hospital.  She can make those who are a little shy feel more confident, and bring calm to those who are feeling upset or stressed. One of our highlights was an elderly gentleman who had a stroke and been unable to communicate for 2 weeks and yet when Poppy sat with him, he suddenly started to speak –   the power a dog in all its glory!

As for me, it has really changed my life being able to volunteer with Poppy. I feel blessed to be able to give back to such a great hospital that was amazing in treating my family and being able to bring a smile to the children and everyone else we meet during our visits each week.

Profile: Jon

During my wife’s illness, I spent a lot of time getting to know different parts of Addenbrookes, from the Treatment Centre to Clinic 8, via many points in between. When the following year, I was thinking about volunteering generally, I realised that Addenbrookes would be a good place to look. I was particularly pleased that there were more roles than ward visiting, which I had assumed would be all there was, as I was already spending too much time visiting to my bed-bound Dad.

Guiding seemed a good role for me, as I already had a good understanding of the hospital – though there is always something surprising as they squeeze yet another bit in, it would provide a chance to interact with people and would get me on my feet, walking about, whilst giving me a chance to give back to a place that has done so much.

Guiding did what I expected.

You get to deal with a whole range of people – from new staff looking for bits of the hospital they have never been to before, through patients who have been to Addenbrookes before and just want to be pointed in the rough direction of a new clinic, to those who are panicking because this is their first time and they had no idea how big (or confusing) Addenbrookes can be.

You can tell that you are making a difference when you see the relief and thanks on people faces when all you did was find someone a wheelchair to take their partner to the clinic or offer to take someone to Discharge Lounge. Guides do not make the difference that the clinical and other support staff do, but we can make many peoples early interactions with the hospital just that little bit easier, and that is a key reason why I enjoy being one.

Together - Safe, kind, Excellent
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