Youth volunteering outcomes in Nottingham’s hospitals this summer heralded an exciting new summer school for young volunteers at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) launched as part of our new Youth Volunteer Project. The curriculum for the week, developed as part of my role as Nottingham Hospitals Charity’s Youth Volunteer Project Manager at NUH, included sessions on dementia, communication, delirium prevention, clinical skills, and various workshops.
Having been a nurse for 35 years and undertaken a programme of school and college visits at the start of this project, I was able to draw on my clinical experience (Charalambous, 2014) to develop two new roles of Fitness Friends and Boredom Busters young volunteers received training on ‘Fitness Friends’ where physiotherapists train them to support patients with exercise; and ‘Boredom Busters’ where they are trained by Occupational Therapists in cognitive stimulation therapy to engage patients in activities and provide opportunities for social interaction.
The summer school not only provided a unique opportunity for young people to access information and develop new skills, but their contribution will improve the clinical outcomes of older patients who are at increased risk of developing side effects from hospitalisation.
A core part of my role has been to ensure that people are on board – whether it be clinical, nursing or volunteer teams within our Trust.
Assess stakeholder needs
The success of the project has hinged on collaborative working with a range of key stakeholders. Before the summer school, I conducted a survey to determine how the prospect of deploying young volunteers onto hospital wards would be received by staff. I used a Likert scale to ask 5 simple questions (see attached) and asked for comments which I then synthesised into themes. There was some cause for concern from some members of staff but these were easily addressed through information sharing and good communication to allay their fears. Overall, the responses were positive and staff welcomed the project.
Thinking ahead to monitoring impact, I also asked volunteers to give anonymous feedback about their experience at the summer school. I again asked 5 simple questions and asked for comments. This information will help with future planning for next year.
I realised that students needed peer support to maximise their experience , and in line with current recommendations, I asked them to work together in their breaks to set up a youth forum (NHS England, 2015). Setting this up needs to be implemented by putting young volunteers at the heart of everything, and building the forum around their voices. It exists to represent the views of young people, giving them the opportunity to have a voice, discuss issues, engage with decision makers and contribute to improving and developing hospital voluntary services. I purposely did not get involved in this as I felt it important that they had the freedom to communicate without fear of being judged by someone who might be perceived as being an authority figure in the organisation. They were encouraged to decide for themselves which platform they would prefer.
Part of the assessment process involved working in collaboration with staff. Fortunately staff saw the advantages of collaborative working with volunteers to improve the level of support offered to patients, and this complemented the needs of the young volunteers to develop new skills and meaningful experience. Also, when visiting schools and colleges, I asked students what type of uniform they wanted to wear, how they wanted to engage with their peers, and what they wanted to gain from the experience.
Collaboration and listening to stakeholders ensured that the enigmatic and often elusive ‘sweet spot’ of benefits to all could be achieved as everyone stood to gain from the project.
This was evident in the feedback from volunteers and staff. Davelle Reid, one of our first Pears volunteers, described feeling proud to volunteer. He enjoyed the experience saying, ‘My favourite thing about volunteering is that I get the opportunity to make patients feel at ease at a time that is incredibly scary and anxious’.
Staff too appreciated the volunteers. Aquiline Chivinge, Matron for Ambulatory Care, highlighted how volunteers are welcome in the trust saying: ”I am really excited to welcome young people to our hospitals and give them the opportunity to see our excellent team working and how we celebrate inclusiveness and diversity here”.
The project offers AQA accreditation for training, and volunteers were presented with a certificate on the last day of the summer school which will be of enormous benefit to their personal and career development in the future. Volunteers also appreciated the presentation of certificates event which gave them
Listening to the voices of everyone involved in the youth volunteer project, and working together towards a common goal has the potential to maximise success. I feel fortunate that we were indeed successful in supporting young volunteers to roll out new roles to help our patients, staff, and encourage volunteers to develop skills and gain experience. I am optimistic that we can build on the success of this year and have plans to develop more new roles as well as maintain the momentum of our successful first year.
- Charalambous (2014) The Value of Volunteers on Older People’s Wards. Nursing Times 110(43) pp.12-14.
- NHS England (2015) NHS England and the British Youth Council. Bitesize guide to setting up a Youth Forum in Health Services across England. Leeds: NHS England.