Why I volunteer: To learn about being a doctor in palliative care

Categories: Community Engagement.

I knew about St Wilfrid’s Hospice from my secondary school days as we did a lot of fundraising for them. We had visited too, so I had an idea of how the hospice helps people. It was what prompted me to apply to become a volunteer when I started college.

I was in the middle of this process when the hospice called to tell me about the new Young Clinical Volunteer (YCV) programme. It is a six-month structured volunteer programme with a certificate and a reference at the end. It is aimed at helping prospective medical school applicants or those looking to go into healthcare-related work. I decided last summer that I really wanted to study medicine, so it sounded ideal as it would give me the opportunity to gain lots of practical experience and a real insight into St Wilfrid’s. I had not realised I would get so much more out of the programme at the time.

I do a four-hour evening shift once a week at the hospice. I am involved with all sorts of things including helping patients to eat, observing the nurses and healthcare assistants supporting patients with different symptoms, and sitting and talking to patients to see if there is anything I can help them with. I have shadowed the nurses on a drug round and I have recently been on a doctors’ ward round, which was so interesting and taught me a lot about what it is to be a doctor in palliative care.

During Dying Matters Week, there was an evening session for the YCVs where one doctor hosted a Q&A session on how to prepare for medical degree interviews and another hosted a debate about assisted dying. That was really thought-provoking – some difficult scenarios about medical ethics were discussed and it really made me think about how I would respond to them.

Volunteering at St Wilfrid’s has opened my eyes to what it means to help people with varying needs in the hospice. I have really enjoyed being with the patients and talking to them. I had been visiting one lady each week who was very near the end of her life; one evening she told me how happy she was to see me. It made me realise that I am not the only one benefitting from what I am doing.

The YCV programme has also taught me how helping people in the smallest ways can have a huge impact and I believe those are skills I can implement not just in my future career, but also in my everyday life.

For more information visit St Wilfrid’s Hospice