Friendly faces as volunteers help patients at Treliske Emergency Department

Falmouth Packet: Volunteer co-ordinator Mike Doble Volunteer co-ordinator Mike Doble

A trip to the Emergency Department can be a daunting experience so a simple smile, friendly company or the offer of a cup of tea or blanket can make a huge difference. This is the thought behind the hard work of volunteers at the Emergency Department at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro.

Following a request from the department, the friends group that supports the and fundraises for the hospital swung into action. Tea hostess co-ordinator Suzie Woodier got the ball rolling in late 2012 and with the recruitment of volunteer and retired ambulance officer Mike Doble the service has gone from strength to strength.

Mike, who spent 40 years working in the ambulance service including a stint as a First Responder in Probus, said: “I’d been a volunteer in the Mermaid Centre tea bar for about 18 months when I heard about this service and thought ‘that’s the one for me!’.

"I’d enjoyed my work as a first responder but felt I was getting on a bit to be rushing off at the sound of a pager. I began working in the Emergency Department as a volunteer and then took over the co-ordinator role earlier this year.”

Mike says the main aims are to assist the staff in non-clinical duties and to chat to patients and their relatives.

“We mainly work with the department’s housekeepers, offering a blanket, perhaps restocking cupboards if requested or doing the odd tea round if the housekeeper is busy with other duties. The main element is simply going and talking to people and making things easier for the staff.”

Mike says the service has been warmly received. “What we do is really appreciated by staff, patients and relatives. For example, an elderly lady was brought in today. She had her daughter with her so she wasn’t alone but I spent time talking with them and got a blanket for her and when I left she thanked me for taking the time to talk.”

Mike, a father of four and grandfather to five, currently leads a team of ten volunteers, all students from nearby colleges. “I feel it is a great privilege to work with these students. Many of them are hoping to go into a medical career and I think it’s great the Friends are giving these young people a basis for life and skills they can take forward. Two of our recent volunteers have just left to go to university, both on medical related courses.

“I find we are very much teaching the students who are volunteering about life’s little ways. Everyone thinks there’s lots of communication these days but really its texting, emails and ipads and phones. It’s not face-to-face talking. Looking back over my career and life, it’s always been about communicating directly with people. This work gives the students the skills to talk to people and it’s a privilege to be part of that, to feel that in some way we have influenced and taught someone about caring for people. That’s what it is all about – care of a person who has found themselves a patient here and their loved ones who are with them.”

Mike is also looking for more mature volunteers to join his team. “I’d like to see a more diverse team of volunteers. Students obviously move on with their education and I’d like to see more mature volunteers to join us to bring different skills and help provide more continuity.”

Mike says volunteering in the Emergency Department is a unique experience. “It is a unique department, with unique patients and staff. Initially would-be volunteers come in and see what happens here. You don’t know if you will like it or what you would be able to do it until you see for yourself.”

For those who feel they can give their time to the department there is the training provided by the Voluntary Services. Currently the service only provides volunteers during the day but Mike is keeping an open mind as to the future possibilities.

Claire Blake, ED Clinical Matron, said: “The volunteer service is an invaluable asset to the department. Mike and his team provide support to the department both for patients and their relatives and also to the ED team. In my time as Matron from February 2012 I have seen the team develop and look forward to welcoming new volunteers in the future.”

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