I joined the Involvement, Experience and Volunteering Team as a Volunteer Support Officer in January 2017 and it’s fairly safe to say that three and a half years ago, I didn’t expect the role to be quite how it is today.
I was previously working as a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner in an “Improving Access to Psychological Therapies” Service, assessing peoples needs and referring them on to services as well as offering Cognitive Behavioural Therapy based treatments. One of the things that really made my job worthwhile was to see the change in a person from their initial session to when they were well enough to be discharged. I’ve kept the thank you cards I received, and each one still makes me smile.
One worry I had when starting this role in 2017 was that my “line of sight” to the patient was going to become a little less clear and I’d lose the feeling that I was making a difference to patients. I’m really glad to say that over three years later, I was wrong. A lot of my job as a Volunteer Support Officer is enabling volunteers to be able to perform their roles within Nottinghamshire Healthcare, offering support, training or whatever else is needed. Although I have limited “frontline” contact with patients, I see the impact that our volunteers have daily on patients, carers and services as a whole.
Some of our volunteers are quite busy with multiple projects or meetings and I can see them nearly everyday. Others may spend a regular afternoon a week with another team and I may only speak with them on the phone or email once every couple of months. A few may volunteer on a short term project or during the spring/summer months and I may only meet them once or twice in a year. Despite the variation in the amount of time they’re able to volunteer, the one thing they have in common is that they are all making a difference. This could be anything from the suggestion made in the meeting based on their own experience of being through services; the listening ear in the carer support group; the five minute cup of tea and chat at the Tea Bar; to tending gardens to help create a calm outdoor space for patients and staff. Volunteers have a wide ranging impact.
Obviously, recent months has affected volunteering activity globally, not just within Nottinghamshire Healthcare. Some things have been suspended until it’s safe to do so; where possible, other things have been adapted to carry on in a slightly different format; and new opportunities have arisen. Hopefully, in time, we’ll be able to resume all our volunteer roles, making sure we’re learning from this experience and keeping the best bits from the adaptations we’ve made.
So, during this Volunteer’s Week (and every other day of the year), to all our volunteers, thank you. Thank you for making my job interesting and enjoyable. Thank you for the community of volunteers you’ve helped create in Nottinghamshire Healthcare. Thank you for making a difference to patients, carers, staff and services.