Junior volunteer pilot helps improve hospital experience for patients

Cwm Taf University Health Board has been working with local school pupils to pilot a new junior volunteer scheme to help improve hospital stays for patients.

The project, designed to create more volunteer opportunities for younger people in the Cwm Taf area, saw Year Eleven students spending their free time as ward befrienders for older patients on Ward B2 at Ysbyty Cwm Rhondda hospital.

As ward befrienders, the students spent an hour a week with patients. The purpose of the visits was to provide patients with increased interaction during their hospital stay and to give younger and older people the chance to learn from each other, with conversations aiding studies when discussing the war day and using technology to communicate with family members.

Staff on the ward identified patients each week who they believed would benefit from a visit and would welcome some stimulating conversation and company. The staff met with the students at the end of the session each week to provide support answer any question and gather feedback.

Following the six month pilot, the students said the visits had improved their communication and problem solving skills, their confidence and their understanding of people’s needs.

Patients also spoke positively of the visits, saying they had enjoyed spending time with the ward-befrienders and that their conversations with them had brightened up their day.

One patient noted: ‘‘I have met with the young girls several times.  They are lovely and friendly.  I enjoy chatting to them as it helps me remember the good old days and I have lots of lovely memories.  Hope they continue to do this as it is an enjoyable experience and makes me smile.”

Gemma Price-Davies, B2 Ward Manager, said: “The student volunteers have made such an impact on our patients’ hospital experience.  It gives our patients a link with the outside world and gives them quality time with someone who can sit and chat, reminisce and generally break up the day for them, making their stay in hospital a much happier times."

Following the pilot, the students said: “It was heart-warming to hear staff and patients talk about how good our work was. This was very encouraging and a big confidence booster. It was quite difficult in the beginning as you don’t realise how difficult it is to start a conversation with someone you don’t know, especially if they are older and not always sure that they want to talk to you.

“As our confidence grew it was lovely to see how excited some patients were to see us. Re-visiting them on a weekly basis allowed us to see how they had benefited and it was lovely to hear that someone had requested to speak to us again.

“It was very emotional to hear on one occasion staff state that they had never seen a patient chat so much. The visiting has hugely improved our confidence and ability to communicate and we have learnt a lot from the patients.”

There are now plans to roll the scheme ward by ward in both Ysbyty Cwm Rhondda and Ysbyty Cwm Cynon hospitals.

Sarah Morgan-Jones, Cwm Taf UHB’s Volunteer Manager, said: “Volunteering is a really rewarding experience and can help people develop a range of skills as well as bring joy to our patients, so it has been lovely to able to provide young people with more opportunities through this pilot.

“It’s been fantastic to hear about the difference the visits have made and how the students have grown in confidence so that they can mentor future volunteers as we implement our plans to roll this out further.”

Alan Lawrie, Director of Primary, Community and Mental Health, said: “I’m really pleased that this pilot has been such a success and has been so rewarding for all those involved.

“We know how important is it for our patients to interact with people during their time in hospital so the work of our ward befrienders is vital. To receive such positive feedback from those who spent time with the pupils and to hear that patients and the students learned from each other during their conversations is fantastic.

“It’s also been great to see young people take such a keen interest in spending time with our patients and understanding our approach to caring for older people. The Health Board is pleased to be able to offer more opportunities for local pupils as we roll out the scheme to other wards.”

If anyone is interested in volunteering at Cwm Taf University Health Board, please contact 01443 744805 or email CTUHB_Volunteering@wales.nhs.uk

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