Volunteering after Retirement – The Unexpected Joys 

Categories: People & Places.

Jutta, one of the amazing Reception Volunteers at the Inpatient Unit at Michael Sobell House, shared her experience of working in the Inpatient Unit and the joys it has brought her. Read her story below.

Harlington Hospice (HH): How long have you been a volunteer with us and what inspired you to volunteer with us?

Jutta (J): Long story short, I started as a gardening volunteer initially, in 2002. And at that point, palliative care, the actual system that was set up was pretty new. So the then Office Manager asked me if I wanted to train up on it, initially, and it was only on a volunteering basis, half a day per week. When it eventually became a much bigger job, and it was sort of taken on by other hospices and other hospitals, they asked me would if I would like to do the job on a part time basis. I did two days a week, sometimes three, depending on how busy it was and how much work needed to be done.

HH: So you’ve had a very enduring relationship with us and have been here through a lot of changes. What has kept you with us?

J: Well, I finished working here in 2016. That was because I was past retirement age anyway. I had been quite poorly the previous year, so had to have treatment and everything else. Before COVID struck, I came back to volunteer and I said I wouldn’t mind coming in for half a day a week or so. I did my first training day just before everything had to close down. So I came back in 2021 with the new setup as Michael Sobell House and Harlington Hospice.

HH: How has the experience been volunteering here, as opposed to working here previously?

J: It’s definitely much quieter. It was very hectic in this office back when I worked here, the receptionist was constantly busy and we had one volunteer to help us, which was quite nice. It was completely different to now!

HH: What are some of the highlights of volunteering with us?

J: I just love the people. Everybody is so nice. I just love being here, I love talking to people and doing a little bit of work on the internet as well. I still remember quite a few of the staff who are still here from before, as I worked with them when I was employed here. It’s a great place to be – a happy place, actually.

HH: Do you think people from the outside might view the Hospice as being a bit of a sad place to volunteer in?

J: Yes, I always get that. People ask, “How can you go there?” and I say, “Check it out, you should come and see it, it’s nothing like you imagined it to be.” Of course, there are some very sad cases here now and again but that’s understandable and that’s the nature of it. But everybody, the staff and visitors, is kind and thoughtful and I see it as a happy place to be.

HH: Do you feel supported by the team?

J: Oh yes, absolutely. I think they work so well together – they work hand in hand. It’s almost like they know in advance, where they are needed. Do you know what I mean? They can guess the situation because the patient is there and they get to know the family and they really look after them beautifully. I’m always amazed because it takes a lot of strength for the staff to be like that. I remember, years ago, somebody said to me that the nurses on the Inpatient Unit should only be doing the job for about 5 years because they don’t just look after the patients but also the extended family. So it’s really hard to describe what it’s like working here but it’s just lovely. I like dealing with the people who come in. Sometimes, you get stuck about something and there’s always somebody to help, especially when things change and are updated, there’s always someone willing to help.

HH: Going from being a staff member and then coming back as a volunteer a few years later, has the transition been quite seamless for you?

J: Yes, absolutely, no problem at all. I feel quite privileged to be here as a volunteer.  I really enjoy coming in and seeing everybody and dealing with the people who come in. Also, the Art Centre is pretty good because they, on a weekly basis, get more or less the same patients coming in, so you become friends with them, which is nice. And sometimes members of the family come in and it’s just like a family feeling.

HH: What words of encouragement would you have for someone who’s thinking of volunteering for us but wasn’t quite sure?

J: It is a really rewarding job to do – it’s a job, isn’t it? I know it’s volunteering but it’s a volunteering job. I also feel that for volunteers of a certain age who have retired, it’s also good for you. It gets you among people and it gets you to speak to people and keeps you up to date with modern things. Don’t get me wrong, I always have a busy week but this is just something outside of it, so it’s slightly different. It’s really interesting and it’s good for me.

HH: Do you have a personal connection with the IPU, apart from being employed here in the past?

J: About 16 years ago, a very good friend of mine’s husband passed away here, when I used to work here and that had a profound impact on me. Many years ago, before I worked here, my mother-in-law died from lung cancer and at the time, I wasn’t very familiar with any of that, I’d never come across a person who had a terminal illness. I visited the IPU to get a bit more information and a nurse sat and had a chat with me. Even though my mother-in-law wasn’t a patient and ended up being cared for at home, the nurse was so lovely and took the time to explain things to me and comfort me. That sort of patient centred service has always been engrained in this organisation.

HH: Do you think you’ll volunteer with us for a while more?

J: Oh yes, definitely, I have no intention of giving it up just yet. It’s a lovely place to be.



This article is republished with permission from the Harlington Hospice website


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