Val Foster – Inpatient Unit Volunteer

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“It is amazing what aspects of people’s lives they will share with you; it is an enormous privilege and a very humbling position. I have sometimes just sat for my whole shift and held someone’s hand, if that is what the patient needs.”
Val Foster

I had always planned on volunteering once I had retired, and it was my link to healthcare that brought me to St Clare. I have worked in the health service for 50 years, as a nurse and then as a midwife. I always felt that there was a strong connection between Midwifery and end of life care; people coming into the world, and people going out. Their needs are very similar. The care that you give a woman and her whole family in pregnancy and childbirth – the holistic approach provided, is very similar to hospice care.”

“I have been volunteering in the inpatient unit at St Clare since March 2014. I come in on Friday evening for 2 hours and help out in any way that I can. This may involve watering the plants, or tidying things around the unit. I collect the dishes, make lots of tea and coffee, and generally just make sure everyone has what they need.”

“As soon as I get in I offer to make the doctors and nurses a cup of tea – because sometimes it’s been hours since they last had one. There is a handover sheet for volunteers to read when you first start your shift – where you find out about the patients and their needs. Things like how they like their tea, or what they like to eat, how mobile people are – so that I know the best way in which to help.”

“I couldn’t possibly choose one favourite element of being at St Clare, it is just a beautiful place to be. It doesn’t matter how busy it seems to be, or how stressful it is, there is always this wonderful air of calm and tranquillity around. Even when you walk into the unit and someone has recently passed away there is still an essence of peacefulness – it’s lovely.”

“All volunteers in the inpatient unit have a different role to play – the role is really what you make it. There is very little laid down to say you must do this, you must do that. I have just developed my own shift that works for me; which I personally love. Working the evening shift means that I am the only volunteer on the inpatient unit, which draws me in really close to all the staff and patients.”

“The staff are so amazing – every single one of them is lovely. They never fail to make me feel welcome and always make me a part of their team. A place like this attracts a certain kind of person, from doctors and nurses; to the pharmacist that comes in on a Friday, they are all lovely. They are all here for the same purpose, which is to ensure that all patients and families are cared for. The whole holistic approach to care is fantastic – it’s also about not just caring for patients, but it’s caring for each other as well.”

“On my shift I will go around and speak to every patient in the unit. Some of the patients don’t have many visitors so there are times when they wish to just sit and have a chat.”

“It is amazing what aspects of people’s lives they will share with you – it is an enormous privilege and a very humbling position. I have sometimes just sat for my whole shift and held someone’s hand, if that is what the patient needs.”

“At other times, the rooms are filled with family and friends that all want to have a chat and I will offer to make them refreshments, so there’s always a lot to get up to.”

– Val

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