Young volunteers supporting Cardiff hospitals

Published : 04/12/19 | Categories: News |

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board is finding new ways to involve young volunteers to benefit hospital patients.

Adult volunteers have been helping Cardiff hospitals for many years, talking to patients on the wards and helping outpatients and visitors to find their way.  Two year funding secured from Pears Foundation has enabled the employment of a specialist volunteering officer to develop volunteering with children and young people.

A Youth Executive team was set up, with members aged 14 to 25 years, to give feedback and make suggestions about the development of volunteering suitable for young people.  The team meets monthly with Kelly Marlow, Youth Volunteering Project Officer.

Research suggests that high quality youth activities should be challenging, have a positive social impact, allow progression to new opportunities, be embedded in a young person’s life, enable reflection about the activity and its value, and be led by young people.  These have become the six principles associated with the #iwill_campaign.

In the spirit of #iwill, the Youth Executive team have shaped existing recruitment and support systems to make them more suitable for young people.  The timescale for recruitment has been shortened by advertising a series of application deadline dates (which means less waiting for the next opportunity to attend an indication session), more of the induction training is delivered face to face, with less reading expected, and guidance is given on what to wear to a recruitment event.

Volunteers as young as 16 years can now be involved on designated wards. ‘Involving young volunteers requires a different approach’ said Kelly ‘Their needs are different.  We offer more support to young people, such as arranging volunteering in pairs on wards rather than individually, providing extra face to face training on how to communicate with service users and supervision sessions to ensure the wellbeing of the volunteer themselves.’

The volunteering team provides information for ward staff and volunteers which clarifies some ‘do’s and don’ts’ that make for successful volunteering.  ‘Boundary issues need to be continually reinforced so that there is a clear understanding of what it is appropriate for volunteers to do.  Spending time talking with patients is a high priority’ said Kelly.  Staff are encouraged to contact the team to discuss new ways or locations for volunteers to get involved.

Pharmacy students getting experience on the wards
Following an approach from Cardiff University, volunteer placements have been arranged for 120 pharmacy students. They attend a common induction session and then, in three cohorts of 40 volunteers, undertake blocks of volunteering for two to three week periods on a two hours per week basis, from September to March.

On the ward they are involved in the same way as other volunteers, supporting patients with friendly conversation and practical tasks. Training is offered, for example in dementia care, in order to increase their understanding of many elderly patients’ experience.

This is the second year of involving pharmacy students and the programme is being evaluated by the university and Cardiff and Vale voluntary services team.  It is hoped that through these placements, future pharmacists will gain valuable insight into life on hospital wards and the needs of patients.

Digital heroes are on the way
Recruitment is currently underway for volunteer digital heroes, aged under 25 years.  Kelly has  completed the training necessary to develop the programme, which will see young ‘heroes’ on the wards, equipped with ipads from Digital Communities Wales, to assist patients in performing digital tasks.

Helpforce is working with Third Sector Support Wales (WCVA and 19 CVCs), Welsh Government and other partners to develop the potential of volunteering to support health and social care services in Wales.

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