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Hospital Volunteers Share Their Coronavirus Experience

This week is Volunteers' Week, where we celebrate and thank the hundreds of volunteers who give up their free time to help support staff and patients in our hospitals.

But this year, with the Covid-19 Pandemic changing the way we all work, and the way volunteers can help, we thought a special thank you needed to be given.

Our Chief Nurse, Vicky Morris has written to all of our volunteers to express our gratitude for the help and support our volunteers provide.

What we also wanted to do this year, was to share some of the stories of our volunteers themselves, especially of those who have offered to help during Covid-19.

Below are some of the stories and experiences of our dedicated volunteers.

Thomas Angell, volunteer at Worcestershire Royal Hospital

I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience volunteering to help run the Staff Wellbeing Store; I was able to help distribute the donations that the hospital received. I have always felt accepted and part of the team. My role has provided me with a great opportunity to connect with a variety of staff, from different departments, and I have seen the importance of their combined effort throughout these difficult times.

Ordinarily I would have been helping out at a local care home but due to the current circumstances this was, unfortunately, no longer possible. I, therefore, sought another way to give back to the community. I have found my involvement was both humbling and eye-opening; hearing of all the tragedies during the COVID-19 pandemic, I felt quite helpless and wanted to help out in any way I could. Throughout the pandemic I have been inspired by the relentless work of all the hospital staff, so this was a great way I could show my appreciation and keep up their morale.

I am extremely grateful to have been a part of such a valuable project. The appreciation from all the NHS staff and witnessing the generosity of the general public makes the experience even more worthwhile. It is this compassion and sense of community which is getting us through these tough times.

 I will be applying to medical school this year so this provided invaluable insight into what some of the tougher times in my future career may look like.

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Helen McAleese, Volunteer at Worcestershire Royal Hospital and the Alexandra Hospital

I started volunteering just after the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic. With my normal teaching job dramatically changed to a virtual platform running on a very different timetable and knowing how much the NHS means to me, I was keen to use my additional free time to volunteer and feel useful.

My time has been split between the two staff well-being shops at Worcester Royal and The Alexandra hospitals at lunchtime or in the evening - ensuring there is stock out and taking the names and departments of the staff who visited. I have learnt so much about the different areas in a hospital! One of my more memorable moments was taking the name of a fifth year medical student and then realising I had been his A level Biology teacher, what a role reversal! It has been really inspiring to see how everyone, in all roles across the hospitals has worked together to tackle what has been, I am sure, a stressful and unprecedented situation.

I am really enjoying volunteering, I’ve felt so welcomed as part of the volunteer team and I feel very lucky to have been in a position to have had the opportunity to contribute, even a little bit, to putting a smile on staff faces during a difficult time.

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Eva Hurcombe has been volunteering at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, helping provide vital supplies for our staff. Eva said: 

“We live in unprecedented times” has been said in many formats particularly since March 2020. Yet somehow that phrase doesn’t encapsulate the reality that we find ourselves in since the unwelcome arrival of COVID 19 to the planet. There has been untold misery, anxiety, fear and death yet also courage, bravery and neighbourly spirit. In adversity many have stood shoulder to shoulder showing care and compassion. This was what I found as a volunteer at the Alex.

I was privileged to assist in the Wellbeing Shop supervised by the welcoming Viv. After stocking up supplies (many donated by local residents and companies), my job was to be on the door. I made a note of staff members' names and departments and ensured that they social distanced before entering the Aladdin’s cave of no more than three items each! I observed teams of staff that were clearly tired but grateful for this perk. I was touched by the appreciation that they had of me and my willingness to give them a little of my time.

Another memorable shift involved making up goodie bags for the staff from donated items such as toiletries and sweets. The generosity of the public and some of the lovely cards was humbling.

Despite the daily governmental briefings, to observe the NHS at work is thought provoking. As this pandemic has truly highlighted, team work is key. Yes, we need the specialist medical help but we also need the housekeeping, porters, estate workers and volunteers. Our work and efforts matter.

Volunteering is a rewarding way to give back to the NHS. Your path may cross with others that it might not have in your everyday life. Yet you will see both the positive effects that this has on them and ultimately on yourself. Please consider volunteering even in this potentially scary period. You will make a difference. You will be able to look back on these “unprecedented times” with pride.

Sian has been helping out in the Staff Wellbeing Shops at Worcestershire Royal Hospital. She said: 

As the announcement was made on March 23rd for the U.K. to go into “lockdown”, I saw arrangements on my calendar slowly crossed out, one by one.

My ray of hope and purpose was reinstated thanks to my volunteering role at Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

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I was asked to help with the staff wellbeing shop, one session a week. It felt so good to meet people but, more importantly, it was a tonic to see how much pleasure this shop gave to the staff, through all the kind donations made.

It really was a privilege to play a very small part in this. I’m now looking forward to what’s next in my role as a volunteer.

Husband and wife, Tony and Christine Martin both volunteer at Worcestershire Royal Hospital. Tony said:

In the early days of this pandemic it was clear our role as ‘Wayfinders’ would no longer be necessary. Regardless of a Wayfinder’s age or need for ‘shielding’ as the hospital was not able to receive visitors and the public as usual, our role was redundant. 

My wife, Christine, and I always volunteer together and we felt a bit lost without our half day slots on Mondays and Tuesdays.

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After a couple of weeks we were invited to go back in to volunteer in a different role. Helping to run a Staff Wellbeing Shop where donations from many sources were made available for free to all NHS staff. We also thoroughly enjoyed helping distribute plants and flowers that had been donated by various garden centres for all NHS staff.

It was a different role but great fun to see the glee and delight of the staff. We always felt the guidance on social distancing was successful and we were happy to get a chance to be involved in supporting staff rather than our usual role of helping patients and visitors to the hospital.

Lesley Fage is a frequent volunteer with us, along with her amazing Therapy Dogs, Aero and Casper. Her role has changed, but she's still been keen to help out. Lesley said:

I have been volunteering at the WRH for nearly four years with my Therapy Dogs Aero & Casper. When we had to stop due to the Covid-19 situation, I thought I am fit and well and not having to isolate so I got in touch to see if there was anything else I could do in the meantime to support the staff without the dogs. I was asked to volunteer at the weekends in the Staff Wellbeing shop and I jumped at the opportunity. 

It has been lovely to help out and to see all the staff smiling and to see how much the shop has been appreciated by them all, a chance to grab some essentials to help them through the day.

For me it meant I could still keep in touch with staff from the wards I would normally visit, even if their first words were "How are the boys and when will they be back?"

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