It’s National Volunteers’ Week. Time, in other words, to celebrate the contribution of volunteers at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals, from drivers to mealtime support helpers to the brilliant Butterfly Volunteers
Barbara Clemmett restarted her role as a Butterfly Volunteer at NNUH in May to support patients at the end of their life. The retired NNUH microbiology office manager from Old Catton became one of the Trust’s first Butterfly Volunteers in June 2019 to provide companionship and company to patients who are recognised as being in the last days and hours of their lives.
Wards are now welcoming back Butterfly Volunteers after the initiative was paused during the Covid-19 pandemic. Barbara, who volunteers once a week at the hospital, said: ‘It has been 14 months since we last volunteered at the hospital and a lot of us have felt a bit apprehensive, but we are getting back into it. The staff are pleased to see us back and I am pleased that the Butterfly Volunteer profile has been heightened on the wards.’
The scheme, which was started in partnership with Anne Robson Trust, gives particular focus to patients who have no other visitors and has the goal of making sure that no patient dies alone.
Barbara added: ‘I knew I could not be a nurse and do clinical work, but I am interested in patient care – and I am a very empathetic person. This role really jumped out at me – and I am pleased that I can do it. I worked in an office at the Trust for 25 years and I wanted to keep busy when I retired. I did not want to lose my association with the Trust.
‘No one should die alone and some of the patients really enjoy a conversation and sometimes just being present is enough or holding their hand. The biggest change is the wearing of all the PPE, but I feel safe.’
It almost goes without saying that teams across the NHS have shown extraordinary reserves of dedication, resilience and flexibility since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
And during National Volunteers’ Week, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Trust will be highlighting the invaluable work of those who volunteered during the pandemic and the volunteering roles that have restarted as we return to a new normal.
Throughout the last year it has been really strange not having the majority of our volunteers at the hospital and I am so pleased that volunteers are now coming backProfessor Nancy Fontaine, NNUH Chief Nurse
Professor Nancy Fontaine, NNUH Chief Nurse, says: ‘Throughout the last year it has been really strange not having the majority of our volunteers at the hospital and I am so pleased that volunteers are now coming back. In particular, I wanted to say a big thank you to the volunteer drivers who kept going through the pandemic.
‘I am delighted that our Butterfly Volunteers are returning to the wards to work with our specialist palliative care teams and the role they play in supporting patients and families is second to none.’
It’s been a hard year but we’re ready to meet the next challenge with a new and improved Volunteer ServiceSally Dyson, Voluntary Services Manager at NNUH
Sally Dyson, Voluntary Services Manager at NNUH, adds: ‘The pandemic has really put volunteering in healthcare on the radar for lots of new people and there is also enhanced recognition from our staff that volunteers have been able to add real value to the workplace. This is a great opportunity for us to grow and I feel we need to grab it with both hands.
‘Managing everyone’s expectations in the pandemic was very difficult and it felt like a very long time before we could start to bring volunteers back on site. It’s been a hard year but we’re ready to meet the next challenge with a new and improved Volunteer Service.’
David Knights, from Brundall, decided to become a NNUH volunteer after seeing a national newspaper article about NHS volunteering in 2018. The former Royal Marine, who works at Audi Norwich, applied and was asked if he’d like to join the Volunteer Drivers scheme. The initiative is the first of its kind in the country where hospital volunteers transport patients home and to help get them settled in after a hospital stay.
But when the coronavirus pandemic hit the country, David and his fellow volunteer drivers stepped up to ensure vulnerable and shielding patients received vital prescription medications. David, who volunteers one day a week, says he drives between 150 and 225 miles a day delivering prescriptions across Norfolk.
‘I am used to going out and finding addresses and building a rapport with people. People are really appreciative – and we are doing good, which is what it is all about.
‘Volunteering is one of the most rewarding things you can do. It is great to be part of a team. There are so many different divisions in the volunteering service from welcoming patients in the hospital to helping them get back home. Some people cannot believe we do this for free – it is really rewarding. You can volunteer for as many hours that fit your lifestyle. I’m 69 and I like to be active and I still work part-time.
‘I feel safe from coronavirus when driving and when we are delivering prescriptions, we wear face masks, use hand sanitisers and we are doing two lateral flow tests a week. There are a lot of people who still need the prescription delivery service because they are vulnerable or feel they are still at risk.’
As a volunteer I have the time to spend an hour with a patient to help them at mealtimes and sometimes I sit with them afterwards if they are anxious or upsetSally Goodrum, mealtime support helper
Sally Goodrum, from Wymondham, retired as a nurse after more than 40 years last year and joined as a volunteer to assist patients at mealtimes. Sally volunteers one evening a week on Earsham ward, which is an older people’s ward to provide mealtime support to patients.
‘I started as a volunteer a year ago, but there has been a lot of downtime because of the pandemic. I have been back to the ward four times since volunteering restarted and I’m happy to help other volunteers with their training.
‘Volunteering is very worthwhile and staff really appreciate it. As a volunteer I have the time to spend an hour with a patient to help them at mealtimes and sometimes I sit with them afterwards if they are anxious or upset.’
Volunteers, who register as a mealtime support helpers, are provided with comprehensive training from the Hospital’s Speech and Language Therapy team, covering the basics of swallowing, feeding techniques, and mealtime and infection control procedures.
There are 20 trained Butterfly Volunteers at NNUH and another 14 volunteers who are in training. If you are interested in becoming a Butterfly, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone interested in volunteering at NNUH are encouraged to contact the Hospital’s Voluntary Services team by calling 01603 286060 or emailing email@example.com or applying online at https://www.nnuh.nhs.uk/getting-involved/volunteer-with-us/become-a-volunteer/.
Featured image: Barbara Clemmett, Butterfly Volunteer