Young volunteer, Tessa, 16 volunteers to support older patients at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary

This is the story of Tessa Yau, who volunteers with the Royal Voluntary Service as an on-ward volunteer, recognising both the benefit her action brings to the patients she’s working with as well as herself.
Young volunteer, Jyoti with an older patient at Nottingham University Hospital.

“I think it is so important for people to volunteer to help the NHS, as without realising it, we play a key role, alongside paid hospital staff, and make a valuable contribution to the quality of care and patient satisfaction”

Young volunteer, Melina volunteering at the Royal Free Hospital

Tessa Yau (16) lives with her family in Aberdeen and will soon be starting sixth form at a school in the city. Tessa started as a Royal Voluntary Service on ward volunteer at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in March 2019. Currently she volunteers every Sunday for one and a half hours, visiting older patients, talking to them and keeping them entertained and happy during their stay.

Tessa discovered the on-ward opportunity following an online search for medical related volunteer roles.

“I’m hoping to study medicine at University and understand volunteering can massively boost someone’s CV and give them a more competitive edge.  I also wanted to find out more about working in a hospital and be somewhere I can watch and learn from nurses, doctors and other staff at work.”

Tessa says volunteering has made her realise the true importance of the NHS and the impact it has on people’s lives and also the valuable role volunteers play.

“I think it is so important for people to volunteer to help the NHS, as without realising it, we play a key role, alongside paid hospital staff, and make a valuable contribution to the quality of care and patient satisfaction.  Although it may seem we are doing very little compared to doctors, the little things we do really add up to be of great help to the NHS.  Volunteers can have a great impact on patients during what can be a very difficult time. Many patients are lonely, have few visitors and are in for a long time. We can help by keeping patients company and comforting them, which in turn eases pressure on hospital staff workloads.”

“I’ve gained a new appreciation for older people, a group I’d had very little experience with previously. So many of the patients are lovely and very interesting to speak to. They often have a wealth of experience and numerous stories to tell, which can be very entertaining! We talk about anything from friends, family and food to their lives in the past and hobbies. Sometimes the conversations are less light-hearted, as patients can be agitated and keen to leave, or in some cases grieving about the loss of a loved ones. These conversations are more challenging but are incredibly rewarding, especially when they tell me I’ve cheered them up.”

On a more personal note, Tessa believes volunteering has proved a great way to improve her communication skills and boost her self-confidence.

“Since I started volunteering, I genuinely feel it has made many positive changes to my life. I’m naturally shy and soft spoken, but volunteering on ward has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. I have already learnt and developed many skills which I will undoubtedly apply in the future. “

Tessa fits volunteering around her studies as well as other commitments and hobbies including playing competitive table tennis and daily piano practice. She also attends regular art lessons, and is a member of her school orchestra and literacy and debating societies. This not her first foray into volunteering – Tessa lends her support to the local guides troop every week and helps at a local care home. Whilst she has a busy schedule, Tessa believes more young people can and should make time for volunteering.

“I really think most young people could easily fit volunteering in with other commitments if they made the effort. Most teens have more time available than they think, which could be used to do something proactive and beneficial to everyone. I actually found that, during exam season, volunteering gave me a well-earned break from my revision and acted as a temporary distraction from all the stress.”

“I think anyone who has the opportunity to, should volunteer and support Royal Voluntary Service. It’s a fantastic charity, which helps so many people on a daily basis. Volunteers are central to its work.”