International Volunteers Day

man wearing a mask and lanyard wearing burgundy scrubs standing in front of a computerAfter he retired from the oil and defence industries, Mike wanted to make a difference. The sense of community at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability impressed him, and he started volunteering here in spring 2015.

Over the past five years, Mike has escorted patients to the film club and weekly church services, helped patients to use assistive technology and read to them.

Mike finds working directly with patients very rewarding and has got to know some of them very well. This includes one person who he helps to take part in a quiz, a popular part of the Thursday church service. Mike has been trained to use assistive technology, like eye-gaze and biometrics software. This means he can provide hands-on support to patients to use the software in the hospital’s computer room. He also helps to set up computer games, films or sending messages to patients’ relatives and friends.

Mike carefully adapts to each patient’s preferred way to communicate, such as blinking to show yes/no responses. He sometimes sees subtle changes in a patient’s communication that might otherwise be overlooked and lets the clinical staff know. Mike also supports staff, by interviewing patients for the hospital’s annual patient survey and by being an external auditor for infection prevention and control, hospital grounds and food assessment. He has given public presentations to help recruit new volunteers.

The pandemic has changed the way Mike volunteers. For much of 2020 he supported the church service which was broadcast live on Zoom on Thursdays and Sundays to Chatsworth ward. Mike gave the Bible readings remotely. He says that it was more difficult to help patients answer quiz questions on Zoom but it was a necessary measure to protect patients from the virus.

Chaplain Geoff Coyne is held in very high-esteem by staff, patients, and relatives for the tireless support he provides, such as visiting night shift staff who may be feeling lonely and speaking to anxious patients and relatives. I am very proud to support his work. Mike

After a COVID risk assessment in the autumn, Mike has been volunteering on site. He supports the chaplain on Chatsworth ward on Thursdays and Sundays when he helps with church services for a small, socially distanced group of residents. He helps patients to use the Computer Room one day a week, giving them a welcome break from their wards. He says that the colourful scrubs he wears as part of infection control measures introduced during the pandemic are much loved by patients!

Mike says that the pandemic has highlighted the value that volunteers bring to the hospital, and everyone is very pleased to see volunteers returning.

Patients like the personal attention and practical support, and families like to know that their loved ones are active and happy. Busy staff appreciate the role volunteers play in helping patients to pursue their interests and assisting with the smooth running of the ward. Mike

Volunteers play a key role at the RHN and really make a difference to patients and their relatives. If you are interested in more details and to apply to be a volunteer, please visit our website. We also host Q&A sessions with our volunteers, see our events page for the next session.

#TogetherWeCan #IVD2020