The great work of hospital volunteers

The great work of hospital volunteers

The Royal Voluntary Service have 14,000 volunteers working in hospitals across England, Scotland and Wales providing vital support to patients, staff and visitors every single day of the year. Many people have a close association with their local hospital and by volunteering are able to give something back in lieu of the support they may have received in the past.

What they do?

  • Volunteers at many general hospitals perform a highly valued role in supporting staff, patients and visitors in a wide range of roles. Typical tasks include:
  • Front desk: greeting visitors and patients to the hospital.
  • Ward based: helping ward clerks, nursing staff and befriending patients
  • Mealtime assistants: assisting patients at mealtimes
  • Clerical: supporting the clerical staff in the offices
  • Fundraising: helping to raise money to make a difference to the patients’ stay in hospital.
  • Garden teams: helping to maintain the many outside spaces within the hospital grounds
  • Book Service: visiting the patients with the book trolley
  • Running a shop: or trolley service providing sweets, snacks, drinks and newspapers

Some groups produce a hospital guide and some even run a hospital radio. And there are teams on hand to provide discharge services and support at home.

Most volunteers come in once a week for a regular session of two to four hours depending on their placement. A regular commitment is needed for a minimum period of six months. This helps to ensure that the experience is valuable and rewarding to you as well as to the patients and staff.

The RVS does as much as possible to provide volunteers in every hospital in England, Scotland and Wales but some already have groups who have been assisting patients over many years.

We have been sent co-ordinator Christine Tucker’s personal account of the great work her group in Wales is doing:

“The Robins Hospital Ward Volunteer Service was set-up by Age Cymru Gwent in 2008.

“The Robins are an amazing team of volunteers who give up their precious time to support older patients on several wards at St Woolos and the Royal Gwent Hospitals in Newport. The Robins are part of the ward team and are involved in practical non-nursing activities that both support the ward staff and have a positive impact on the patients. All volunteers undergo security checks and attend all relevant training, which ensures we provide a first class service.

“The volunteers’ ages range from 17, being the youngest, and the oldest is “Our Charlie” who celebrates his 92nd Birthday in September this year.

“Their duties vary from completing menus with patients, shopping, hair styling, painting nails, chatting to patients and feeding them to ensure they enjoy a nourishing meal.

“As the Co-ordinator I visit the wards daily, and whilst on a particular ward at St Woolos a few weeks ago, I witnessed one of our volunteers feeding a gentleman who had lost his eye sight.

“The Robin patiently explained what was on his spoon, mouthful by mouthful. She chatted to him about everyday things, and made him smile. He gracefully thanked her for her kindness, and continued to clear his plate, which must have taken at least 25 minutes. How proud did I feel?

“When we started The Robins way back in 2008, we were on one ward at St Woolos, and since then we have expanded our service, and I am proud to say we are now on eight wards between the two hospitals.

“If we were to secure more funding, my ambition would be to recruit and train more volunteers, which would enable us to extend our service to all appropriate wards at both Hospitals. But in the meantime, we strive to continue to provide a professional, supportive and much needed service.”

If a hospital does not have a volunteer group, it can approach the RVS to co-ordinate one but there is always a need for more volunteers. Anyone who has time and compassion to spare should ask in their local hospital who will be glad to put them in touch with their local organisation or visit to find out more.