Starting volunteering can sometimes be a complicated process depending on where you volunteer. You may need training, references and criminal records checks before you even start. This process can take a while, and understandably so, as you may be supporting vulnerable people and children. Just because you are doing things voluntary doesn’t make them any less important. One of the places that I wanted to volunteer as part of this column was Tameside Hospital. Hundreds of people volunteer in hospitals across the country and when I was volunteering in a hospital in Reading I first realised just how many departments have volunteers. I began the process several months ago. I applied to volunteer by filling in an application form, having an interview, completing health checks, which included catching up on inoculations, and applying for a DBS check to check if I had any criminal records. I then had an induction and some training. There was one point when I was having my second MMR jab that I realised that I was taking my volunteering column extremely seriously and seeing exactly what volunteering involved.
This week I started volunteering at the hospital by volunteering on my first ward. I was put on a Cardiology ward and I must admit I was nervous. The Voluntary Services Manager Karen took me to the ward and on the way I picked up my ID badge. I could see from the photo that I was having a bad hair day. Today my hair was tied back as I have learnt in my induction. I had my yellow volunteer polo shirt on, jewellery removed and I had nothing below my elbow as hospital rules state. I was put in the lovely hands of the Ward Sister in charge who gave me a tour of the ward. Cleverly the wards are laid out so that the patients have the lovely view of the hills while the preparation and staff areas are placed on the opposite sides.
It was visiting time and lots of family members were sat around beds chatting. The ward was divided into bays for men and women that allowed the beds to be utilised to their capacity and every bed was full. It was a lot to take in where everything was but I felt I was getting the idea. Each area was colour coded so the staff had different sets of patients as we walked past the red sections a young doctor said it was ‘the dream team’, I am assuming because he was in it. Everyone was very friendly and supportive. I was put with one of the Health Care Assistants who showed me the ropes. It was time to collect the tea cups and I followed behind with a trolley saying hello to the patients and clearing up. The ward was quite quiet so we then checked that things were stocked up on the ward and that the cleaning had been done. I refilled people’s water jugs when they needed it. I got to grips with the dishwasher and made sure everything was ready for the evening drinks. The meal trolley arrived so I got ready to do another run of hot drinks. Making tea was something I had become very good at after six months of volunteering. Yet nothing prepares you for making drinks for 30 people in hospital. I got to one end of the ward before I realised I had forgotten the milk. Every patient liked their tea and coffee in a different way but it was really lovely to try and make it exactly how they liked it and make their hospital stay more pleasant. Some patients were diabetic, some needed thickened drinks, some were nil by mouth and others were on restricted liquids as to not put strain on their hearts. Many different people volunteer in hospital from people who are retired to young people who want a career in the NHS. You certainly get a really go sense of the hard work of the staff. I was only on the ward for just under 4 hours and I felt tired. The staff members were nearing the end of their shifts at just over 12 hours and were still smiling. My volunteering at the hospital will now be weekly as I find out about other wards and volunteering roles in the coming months.