Reducing anxiety for patients
We hear from Ann Deane, who volunteers at Cambridge University Hospitals, which is part of our Helping in hospitals programme.
My role as a volunteer in the Breast Clinic at Cambridge University Hospitals allows me time to listen to patients' concerns and try to reduce their anxiety.
I find that visitors to our clinic need to be able to identify someone with whom they can engage whilst not feeling they are interrupting very busy clinic staff. The clinic team are readily available to answer any questions or concerns while continuing with their tasks of running an efficient service. However a volunteer who is available, visible and easily identifiable is of huge value to the service.
All volunteers are requested to wear a red polo shirt with a clear label identifying them part of the volunteering team. Each volunteer has a name badge with photographic ID. I wear my ‘uniform’ with pride, a pride that says ‘I’m proud to be helping my NHS'.
The procedure of checking in for visitors and the process that follows often requires further explanation and reassurance. Waiting times are sometimes an issue in a busy clinic. This is an area where communication is of extreme importance. Most people will have a greater understanding if they are kept updated and waiting visitors need encouragement to take the refreshments provided. Elderly patients who arrive using hospital transport, perhaps alone, often need assistance with refreshments to maintain their fluid intake and are in need of company. Regularly visitors need to visit other departments before leaving the hospital. On a large site such as Cambridge University Hospitals, departments can be very spread out so it is very useful to have someone to accompany a visitor to lessen their anxiety and reduce the fear of getting lost. This is a useful exercise in introducing the visitor to the next department thus maintaining continuity in their care. A volunteer is introduced by name as someone who is here to help. All of this serves to offer care and consideration to the client population we serve.
In taking a career break to care for my family I have had some time to reflect on my previous experience in the NHS, my background being in nursing and counselling. I found I still yearn to somehow be part of a local health care service. While considering a return pathway or just being involved, I have valued the opportunity to experience the workplace and appreciate it from an entirely different perspective. I have found that most people are immensely grateful and always enthusiastic to share that gratitude, especially when they learn that the work is entirely unpaid. In fact the concept of working unpaid is alien to some of the population, yet the rewards are incredibly satisfying. I also recognise that it is not an experience that is possible for everyone, given the financial constraints of daily living. Attitudes from most health care professionals towards volunteers are usually equally appreciative and volunteers are soon embraced as part of the team. Some education is occasionally required and respect should always be attributed regardless of position.
I am immensely proud to be part of volunteering at Cambridge University Hospitals. The experience of the local client population of being cared for is absolutely enhanced by the contribution of volunteers to our hospital. I feel I am in some little way contributing to the successful delivery of a service which we simply would find it difficult to live without. It has been said that the NHS runs on goodwill. I think where volunteers are concerned this is certainly true.