Emma Dooks has had to overcome many challenges to get to where she wants to be – working at the University Hospital of North Tees as a volunteer.
She has a learning disability known as Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome which has caused Emma many health issues including with muscle weakness, visual awareness and leading to her not being able to learn to read and write.
Through the STEPS programme, which helps support people with learning disabilities, Emma contacted North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust to ask about volunteering.
She started by helping in the trust’s radio station, presenting a morning show introducing herself as DJ Emma. She is now also volunteering in the medical rehab day unit at the University Hospital of North Tees where she works one morning a week – helping staff and caring for patients.
She said: “I really enjoy working with the staff here and helping patients, I feel like I am really making a difference. All of the staff here have helped me settle in, they’ve always had time for me.”
Her mum Linda said: “Emma has issues she has had to overcome. These have affected her in a number of ways and these things have affected her confidence.
“Having muscle weakness and visual problems gives her a vulnerability. In the medical rehab day unit she’s in a safe and secure environment, doing something incredibly worthwhile with supportive staff who are there for her if she ever needs to ask a question.
Staff nurse Marion Fleming said: “Emma is really enjoying it here, everyone has made her so welcome and she has shown a great attitude.
“She’s been helping make patients feel comfortable and caring for them, getting food and drinks, delivering blood samples to pathology and so on.
“Her confidence is getting better all the time and she is really progressing.”
Due to Emma’s issues with reading and writing, she needed help from staff with the application process and from with some of the e-learning mandatory training which all staff and volunteers must complete.
Learning disability specialist nurse Carley Ogden said: “Emma has overcome many hurdles to get where she wants to be, working in a hospital.
“She wants to share her story in the hope it inspires other people who have learning difficulties to volunteer in health care. Both her and her mum describe the support they have received from the trust and staff in the unit which is fantastic to hear.”