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NHS HIGHLAND: Volunteering can be profitable on a personal level

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Volunteers help at mealtimes for patients.
Volunteers help at mealtimes for patients.

International Volunteer Day is marked on December 5 every year to pay tribute and recognise the impact that volunteers make across the world.

In NHS Highland, we are supported by a team of volunteers who assist patients and staff across a number of healthcare settings. The contribution of these volunteers has meant that they have become valued and key members of our workforce.

On visiting Raigmore Hospital, you may have had cause to speak to our volunteers who serve as wayfinders. If you arrive at the hospital for an appointment and aren’t sure where to go, our wayfinders are on hand to ensure you will get to your appointment in a timely and safe manner.

In our acute wards, our volunteers can often be seen helping at mealtimes, ensuring patients get their meals along with a hot drink. For experienced volunteers, assisting with patient feeding provides some extra challenge and responsibility whilst ensuring the ward continues to run to routine with no patient being overlooked.

Our volunteers have also done some fantastic work providing meaningful activities to patients who live with cognitive impairment.

Meaningful activities are delivered to patients to enhance their wellbeing while they are away from their home, friends and families. Activities can include reminiscence-based discussions, providing hand massage, chatting and listening and sometimes comforting patients until they fall asleep.

It has been encouraging to see patients work on their rehab with the help of these dedicated volunteers and demand for this type of intervention continues to grow.

Our volunteer workforce reflects a broad demographic of the Highland population. The youngest volunteer is 16 years old and our oldest is 84. Younger volunteers normally join to gain some useful early exposure in a clinical environment before using this experience to move on to a career in the health professions. Our mature volunteers range from those who would like to reward NHS Highland for positive care received and those who would like to use the experience gained as a stepping stone to employment and new opportunities.

We are also supported by volunteers from third sector partners and we have excellent working relationships with Therapet, RVS, Spinal Injuries Scotland, Bliss, Nancy’s Natters and Highland Hospice.

Every volunteer can rightly expect to receive ongoing support that helps them to undertake their duties in a safe and effective way. It is very common for volunteers to report that they feel part of the team and this sentiment is often repeated by clinical members of staff when praising volunteers who help in their service.

Although our volunteers can never do anything of a clinical nature, their activities add vital value to the patient experience whilst freeing up valuable staff time that is used for the benefit of patient care.

In a challenging financial climate, it is not easy to consider offering time for free. But, we believe that for those volunteers who can, the returns they receive on their investment make being involved profitable on a personal level.

If you are interested in learning more about what is involved as a volunteer or would like to talk to me about how you can help, I would be really grateful to hear from you. Volunteer placements can be arranged on a routine or flexible basis and every effort would be made to provide a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

Contact me on 07815 005336 or email ian.mcconnell1@nhs.scot

Ian McConnell is volunteer services manager at NHS Highland.

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