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Motivations of young people volunteering in hospitals

The aim of the Helping in Hospitals programme was to measure what impact volunteers could make on patients' experience and outcomes. However, it is clear that volunteering has a huge impact on the volunteers themselves. Below we have shared a few insights into what volunteering has meant to many young people who are now helping in hospitals.

Kevin, a young volunteer at Western Sussex NHS Trust and student hoping to study medicine, reflects on the learning and confidence he has obtained from being a volunteer:

“I began volunteering at the end of year 11, in hopes of learning new skills, meeting new people and experiencing new environments in an effort to better understand the lives of others and the roles they take in society. The opportunity to volunteer allowed me to witness first-hand the dedication and altruism that is embedded in our secondary care system. I started to grasp an understanding of everyday clinical procedures, executed by the finest nurses and doctors in the country, and how their actions re-established the well-being of those vulnerable. From this, I have learnt the importance of skills such as communication and the ability to collaborate with others, demonstrated by clinical staff daily when planning treatment for patients. I found developing such skills valuable as I have learnt to present myself in confidence and with gusto, which aids in activities in, and outside the hospital.”

It is important to remember many young people may have to juggle study and exams whilst volunteering so flexibility in their schedules should be considered. Daniel a young volunteer at University Hospital Southampton tells us why volunteering was worthwhile to him:

“I enjoyed my time at Southampton, although sometimes it was hard to fit volunteering in with my A-levels - I knew it was worth it. Some conversations I had with patients were humbling and I hope I was able to make their day a little brighter. The experience I gained enabled me to move onto my next stage of life which was to study medicine at university. The patient contact I had helped me mature as a young person preparing me for my next steps.”

Uniforms for volunteers have proved to be a great way for volunteers to have their own identity in a hospital with patients and families recognising them as non-clinical support. Monique a young volunteer at Royal Free London notes how she is being recognised and thanked for her work:

“I have had an amazing experience volunteering with the Royal Free especially when staff and patients express their gratitude. I remember when I first started my placement that patients and visitors gave odd looks unsure who these young people in purple tops were; I’ve even been asked if I was a young doctor. However, we’re much more recognised now and I have achieved a lot more in my gap year than expected.”

The impact young people are having on the patients is also being recognised. Elsie, a patient at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust enjoyed the intergenerational conversations she had with the young volunteers:

"I think all the volunteers are really good. I like the ladies who come in at lunchtimes, they are friendly and patient and spend time with me. But I really like the young ones who come in the evenings. I like how jolly and bright they are, and I love hearing about what A-levels they are doing and what careers they are thinking of. They remind me of my Granddaughter. I’d like to thank all the volunteers, especially the young ones, for giving up their time when they are so busy with other things in their lives."

So on behalf of patents like Elsie, clinical staff and the volunteering teams across the country, a huge thank you to all volunteers who are doing a great job helping in hospitals.

Our report Helping in Hospitals: Guide to high impact volunteering captures the learnings and best practices from hospitals in the programme on setting up and measuring impact volunteering within a hospital setting.

NB. Photo of young volunteers courtesy of Royal Free London Hospital


Annette Holman

Annette Holman

Annette Holman

Programme Manager, Government Innovation Team

Annette worked in the Government Innovation Team at Nesta focusing on social action priorities, specifically on the Connected Communites and Second Half Fund.

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