Volunteers play an important role within the health sector, complementing the work of staff and enabling Trusts to enrich and extend the range of services offered to patients.
People may volunteer for a whole range of reasons. They may be former patients or staff, retired people, young people looking for work experience, or people wanting a career break. Many young people who are considering applying to study medicine, nursing, other professions allied to medicine or managerial and support services volunteer to help them decide if the career will suit them in the future.
What will you gain from volunteering?
- work experience
- personal development
- learn from and be supported by staff
- increase your knowledge of health care
- participate in a wider social life
- access relevant training.
Typical tasks include:
- Visitors / Befriending: spending time with patients who may not have any friends or family to visit them;
- Drivers: either in their own cars or transport provided by the hospital, to bring patients to and from hospital / clinics;
- Women's Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) : volunteers from the WRVS are often responsible for running hospital canteens, shops and ward trolleys. Proceeds are usually donated back to the hospital;
- Hospital Radio: Hospital DJs are often volunteers. People may start off collecting requests from patients around the wards;
- Friends groups: these volunteers run tea bars and refreshment trolleys and help raise funds both in and outside the hospital to buy aids and comforts for patients. In many cases they also provide vital hospital equipment;
- Library service: help deliver library books around the wards, often a mobile trolley;
- Therapeutic Beauty Care: some volunteers are trained to provide manicures and hand massages to patients on the wards;
- Newspaper service: many patients enjoy a daily newspaper whilst in hospital and volunteers can take the orders and deliver the newspapers when they arrive;
- Flower service: some volunteers visit the wards and attend to the flowers of patients;
- Clinics: volunteers assist with general duties attached to a specific clinic;
- Guides: large hospitals often need volunteers to help guide patients and visitors around the premises;
- Interpreter Service: in areas with a large ethnic population for whom English may not be their first language;
- Group therapy helpers: volunteers help in selected areas, playing board and card games with the patients or playing a musical instrument;
- Placements working with children: volunteers can assist in play areas and the schoolroom; they are always supervised by paid staff;
Volunteering and benefits
Volunteers are not paid for their work but agreed expenses such as travel or meals may be reimbursed. If you are unemployed and claiming benefits, you must notify the Benefits Office that you are doing voluntary work. If you can state that you can attend interview at one-day's notice, are available for paid work, and are not receiving any payment other than travelling expenses, you should not lose these benefits. Hospitals operate a Register of Volunteers, this helps to ensure that volunteers are suitably trained and can work safely throughout the Trust.