45-year-old Claire Briggs has been a volunteer at our Trust since September last year.
Having been offered a place at university to study nursing, she was a little nervous to get started and decided to take up a role as a volunteer to get some more experience in healthcare.
We recently sat down with Claire to find out a little more about her experience as a volunteer and how the role is preparing her for her career.
Why did you become a volunteer?
So, I was doing farming – I was on a farm for 20 years and when I left, I said to my little boy ‘What am I going to do?’. And he went ‘Well, what did you want to be when you were little’.
When I told him I wanted to be a nurse, he said ‘Well, just do it’.
So I did an access course in health and science and somehow got really, really good marks. I passed that and then I got a place at university but I was just really scared because I’d only been on a farm for the last 20 years. So I applied to be a volunteer to give me some confidence.
I started volunteering on ward 29 and the matron on that ward noticed that I honed in on the older patients and that I had banter with them. And so she suggested that I go to ward 40 so that’s how I’ve progressed onto here.
How does an average day start for you?
I’ll normally come in about 9, put my coat away and just say hi to everyone.
I’ll just peep in the rooms. If any of the patients are asleep, I’ll leave them. But if they’re awake, I’ll say good morning to them and ask ‘Do you want a cup of tea?’ And then my little trick is to say ‘Or do you want a hot chocolate?’ and they’ll have a little hot chocolate and some ginger biscuits.
Some of the patients won’t be very chatty. But if they are, I’ll just sit and ask them questions. I always try and use their first names – what it says on their board – and I’ll ask them about where they’re from.
I’ll brush the patients’ hair and wash their faces. I think it’s important around dinner time to freshen up and if they’ve got any visitors coming, then they’re ready.
What’s your favourite part of your day?
I always get attached to about two patients on a shift. Today it’s a lady who’s dead cheeky and she was jealous when I mentioned another patient – she was like ‘I thought I was your favourite’.
And there’s a man in today who I’ve clicked with as well. He’s just so jolly and happy and likes to know what he’s having for dinner. He loves talking about food.
When you give patients their meal, you write down what they want and then normally shot that bit of paper away. But he likes to keep it. And then when I come in, he goes ‘So tell me what I’ve had this week’, so I go ‘Right, on Monday you had that, then on Tuesday you had this’ – and that’s just our thing.
How is volunteering preparing you for university?
I’ve learned so, so much. Even things like with aprons and masks – when you need to wear them.
When I first started volunteering, I was so shy. I’m 45 and I’ve never worked in this industry before and that was really daunting. But it’s great.
The best thing is the patients and the confidence it’s given me. It’s given me that experience and the time to think ‘Is this what I want?’ – and it is. Everything’s just happening at the moment and I’m just riding the wave.