Reflections from a Young Ambassador: Zoe

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Zoe Donnelly, who volunteered with St Clare Hospice on our Young Ambassadors Project 2018-19, reflects on her experiences learning about hospice care on our Inpatient Unit.
Date published: Wednesday 20th February 2019 | 14:43 GMT
Zoe Donnelly, 18 from Loughton

For many years now, I have had aspirations to go to university to study medicine and, at the age of 18, the extent of my medical experience was at the most basic.”

“However, when I saw the opportunity to become a Young Ambassador at St Clare Hospice last year, I knew instantly it would be the perfect opportunity to experience palliative care. I had very little understanding of what the purpose of a hospice was and, quite honestly, had no idea what to expect.”

“However, after the first couple of weeks, I soon learnt it would be one of the most valuable experiences I have had so far.”

“Initially, my role as a Young Ambassador involved me shadowing the team of volunteers who guided me through their important job at the hospice. It became very clear of the importance of their position and I was keen to lend a hand every Saturday afternoon.”

“Many of my fondest experiences of St Clare involved sitting with patients and just having a chat about anything- from X Factor contestants to their journey into the hospice.”

“I felt incredibly humbled to have had the opportunity to speak to patients, who even in their last few days, were happy to talk to me about their illness.”

“After gaining an insight into the structure of St Clare, I started to work more with the nurses and nursing assistants who were all incredibly welcoming and patient. I was exposed to more personal interaction with patients and was fortunate enough to learn about the vital role the nurses have in the hospice.”

“From this experience, I was exposed to more emotional conversations with patients and their relatives, which taught me more about the importance of good communication skills. Additionally, I was lucky enough to get to know many patients and hear all sorts of funny stories. The lessons I learnt from this are now proving to be extremely valuable with the progression of my medical application.”

“For that, I am so grateful to St Clare for enabling me to have such a unique experience.”

“The final aspect of my experience as a Young Ambassador enabled me to follow consultants around the unit and review what palliative medicine is all about. Quite often I found myself listening to medical terminology and nodding my head, trying to act like I had an idea of what they were all talking about!”

“Despite this, many of the doctors were happy to explain crucial skills they had acquired throughout their careers such as talking to patients about end of life care in a sensitive and professional manner.”

“Listening to the doctors filled me with inspiration to one day fulfil a profession as rewarding and challenging as theirs.”

“Frequently, after my shift, I’d think quite a lot about what I saw that day and what I’d learnt. On a normal Saturday volunteering at St Clare, I acquired at least 5 different medical terms that I was keen to google by the time I got to the car park.”

“However, most importantly, I reflected on the patients I had met and considered how the nurses and doctors had impacted them all differently. Whilst I had done work experience in hospitals and GP practices, the care I witnessed seemed so much more personal than I had ever seen before.”

“For an aspiring medical student, it constantly gave me new reasons as to why I want to study medicine.

“Overall, my experience at St Clare has been one of the most uplifting opportunities I have ever had and I feel honoured to have been able to carry out the ambassador role. There are so many memories and lessons I have acquired from my time at St Clare, and I know they will be invaluable for whatever career I end up in.”

“The knowledge I have gained about palliative care has encouraged me to pass on a more positive definition of what a hospice is to other young people, and I hope to apply the lessons I have learnt from St Clare to my career.”

– Zoe

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