Michelle volunteers at High Wycombe Hospital, after being matched with the Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust. She describes how rewarding she is finding her role on the stroke ward and how this gives her a completely different experience to her usual work life:
What led you to volunteer? To answer that, I probably need to go back to the beginning of the year. Last Christmas, my work contract expired, and I took the opportunity to go on a world trip.
While I was away, I had the time to think through what I would like to do next. My children are all now grown up and I thought, given my increased flexibility, I would probably like to give something back to the community.
I had to cut my trip short, then three days after I got back, the country went into lockdown – so it was an obvious time to volunteer. I signed up to try to get a volunteering role in a hospital. My career is in clinical research for the pharmaceutical industry. Professionally, I have spent a lot of time in and around hospitals so I would be in familiar surroundings if I volunteered there.
What do you do as a hospital volunteer? I help at lunchtimes two days a week, helping serve meals and refreshments plus supporting the patients and staff on the stroke ward. It is not necessarily what I would have seen as my type of role – I thought I might work in administration or co-ordination, but I am enjoying it and find it very rewarding.
What did you gain personally from volunteering? It is such a different experience to my career in clinical research where I spent my time emailing and managing meetings. I meet lots of different kinds of people from all walks of life. I love interacting with the patients, their visitors and the staff.
What difference does your volunteering make to others? I like to think I lighten things up a bit. I have that extra bit of time that the staff cannot offer, which means I can interact with the patients more. A little example: there was one patient who had difficulty turning his plate at mealtimes so could only eat the food on one side of the plate. To many people it would look as if he had just left part of his meal; but when I turned his plate for him, he ate the lot.
Did anything surprise you about volunteering on the ward? Being on this particular ward made me realise how much strokes are a great leveller in life. (You never know what is going to be around the corner) I was surprised to see relatively young patients in their 40s there after suffering a major stroke. Also, the range of effects a stroke can have surprised me –not only may it mean physical disability, but I also saw patients where it had triggered a form of dementia.
Would you recommend volunteering? Yes – and I have already done so, encouraging various friends to volunteer.
Will you carry on volunteering? I will probably be going back to work before too long now and I would be sad if that meant I had to give up the volunteering. I will try to arrange things so I can continue to volunteer on the ward – perhaps covering a different mealtime or different days.
If you are looking for a volunteering role, you can register your interest with the Buckinghamshire Volunteer Matching Service.Back