This is who it takes: The volunteer ward assistant

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.

In the latest instalment of our miniseries celebrating the people who help to deliver hospice care, Ros Simmonds explains why she has been volunteering for St Catherine’s Hospice in Crawley for the last seven years.

I’d always wanted to do something for charity and I liked the idea of making a difference to people facing the end of their life. When I first started volunteering I helped in the hospice coffee shop but I was keen to have more interaction with patients. So when a ward volunteer role was created I moved into doing that. I started volunteering on the wards serving supper, but now I volunteer as a ward assistant giving patients hand massages.

I volunteer as part of the Therapies team, they’re a great team to work alongside. Every week when I come in there’s a list of patients who’d like a hand massage waiting for me, so I set to work making my way around the ward.

I’m quite a touchy feely person and I enjoy reaching out and having a connection with people. Some people fall asleep while I’m doing their hand massages and apologise afterwards but it’s a compliment that I’ve managed to relax them so much!

Other people chat while I’m with them. People tell me about their family, their work life, and the things they’ve done. It’s important to remember that everyone has a life behind their illness and I really enjoy hearing about it. Each person has their own stories and experiences; they’re not just a person in a bed.

One lady I was with recently told me about the books she’s written. I went home thinking of her and I’ve bought one of her books to read now. I often reflect on conversations I’ve had with people and think about what interesting lives they’d had.

Other people tell me about their illness and what they’re going through. I do become fond of people while they’re here, so when I learn that someone has passed away, it can be sad, but the team are very supportive. I speak to someone at the start and end of my volunteering shift, and I leave anything behind before I head home.

It makes my day when people tell me I’ve made a difference to them, and it’s nice when they appreciate what I do. One lady told me I took away her pain. Hearing that was amazing. There was another time a gentleman on the ward was in a lot of pain. I went and sat beside him while the doctors altered his medication. After he’d settled back down, he turned to me and said, ‘Thank you so much for sitting with me when the pain was at its worst.’ I was really touched.

I love volunteering at St Catherine’s. It’s like being part of a big family, and I feel so well appreciated. Volunteering has filled a gap for me and given me an opportunity to show care and love to others in my community. It gives me chance to give something back.

 For more information visit St Catherine Hospice

Hospice Care Week runs until October 13. This year’s theme is This is what it takes