This Volunteers Week (1-7 June), the NHS across the South East is joining organisations across the country to celebrate the contribution of volunteers.
Volunteers have provided vital support during the pandemic in helping people to stay well and to avoid social isolation. They are partners and help the NHS improve the health and wellbeing of the nation by giving their time, skills and expertise freely each year.
Volunteering also provides the opportunity for people to see what a career in health and social care might be like – and that can have a big impact upon their future.
In his blog Sam Moody, 19, from Brighton, explains what it’s really like working in the NHS:
“I wanted to get some experience in nursing to see if it’s something I’d enjoy so I started volunteering with St John Ambulance. I helped out at events in Sussex providing immediate on the spot first aid but, when the first lockdown started and my A level exams were cancelled, I signed up to volunteer to help out in the emergency department at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.
“Every shift was different, and you never know who’s going to walk through the door next, so you’re always learning. It was great to work directly with all sorts of patients and knowing that you’ve helped them in some way – whether it’s taking observations, applying a dressing or just listening – it’s incredibly rewarding. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to become a nurse and am now studying nursing at Portsmouth University.
Volunteering gave me the chance to find out what it’s really like working in the NHS. People would often say how could I work long shifts for nothing, but it really wasn’t for nothing – it gave me a real purpose and sense of value and has helped me in deciding what I want to do so I’m really grateful for being given the opportunity and would recommend anyone thinking of volunteering themselves to just go and do it – you won’t regret it!”
Increased volunteering can be a positive legacy of Covid. Research shows that volunteering doesn’t just help those on the receiving end, it is also a beneficial experience for the volunteers themselves. This is one of the reasons why the NHS offers staff the option of up to five days of paid volunteering leave each year.
Michael Goodeve, associate director of communications with the NHS Wessex Academic Health Science Network, recalls his experiences working at the St James’ Hospital Vaccination Centre in Portsmouth:
“I was a bit anxious before I went, as I wasn’t totally sure what to expect, although having my own vaccine first dose at Oakley Road in Southampton gave me some idea.
“Mostly, my job has been to direct people to available staff for their pre-vaccine assessments. I usually manage seven or eight assessment rooms, helping people get quickly through the process, and then safely onto the area where they receive the vaccine.
“During my shifts, I have been struck by how much energy and enthusiasm the volunteers, mix of clinicians (assessors, vaccinators, a community matron, health visitor, physio and several senior nurses) and Naval staff – who were also giving vaccinations and assessments – had, and how keen everybody was to help beat the virus back.”
People of all ages are encouraged to get involved in health and care volunteering and join thousands of others in the South East who are making a difference every day. This could be by signing up to the NHS Volunteer Responders programme, set up at the start of the pandemic. People can also join their local hospital and GP practice volunteer teams and support the rollout of the vaccination programme. Check local NHS trust and GP websites for more information or visit https://volunteersweek.org/get-involved/for-volunteers/becoming-a-volunteer/ to find an opportunity close to home.