Young Ambassadors inspires medical student

Published on: Wednesday 13 Mar 2019 at 14:03

Volunteering scheme, Young Ambassadors, gives valuable experience to aspiring medical student

An exclusive six-month, clinical voluntary placement scheme, which gives 16-18 year olds an opportunity to volunteer on our Hospice’s Inpatient Unit, has provided Loughton local, Zoe Donnelly, with a wealth of medical and life experience.

Zoe is one of three ‘Young Ambassadors’ who volunteered with St Clare Hospice on our Inpatient Unit. We run the scheme annually throughout September to February, and offer young people an opportunity to gain practical experience of the clinical world and voluntary sector.

The project, having just completed its third year, aims to help students enhance their college, university or job applications, whilst also offering valuable life skills development through direct contact with patients, families and hospice care teams.

Rob Wallace, Volunteer Manager at St Clare Hospice, said, “We’re delighted to have had the support of three excellent Young Ambassadors this year. They’ve all attained a very high standard in a relatively short time and I’m sure they will all go on to have very successful careers in healthcare.”

Zoe Donnelly, 18, from Loughton

Aspiring to study medicine at university, Zoe applied to be a Young Ambassador in 2018-19. After completing the six-month placement, Zoe reflects that the scheme has been ‘one of the most valuable experiences [she’s] had so far.’

“I had very little understanding of what the purpose of a hospice was and, quite honestly, had no idea what to expect,” says Zoe. “Now that I’ve completed the project, 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.”

After shadowing Inpatient Unit staff at St Clare – from volunteers, nurses and nursing assistants, to doctors, consultants and specialists – Zoe explains how being ‘exposed to more personal and emotional interactions with patients and their relatives’ has ‘taught [her] more about the importance of good communication skills’ in the palliative care setting.

“The lessons I learned at St Clare are now proving to be extremely valuable with the progression of my medical application,” says Zoe. “For that, I am so grateful to St Clare for enabling me to have such a unique experience.”

Commenting on the clinical knowledge that she learned whilst on placement at St Clare, Zoe said, “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! Each day, I’d acquire at least 5 different medical terms that I was keen to Google by the time I got to the car park!

“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.

“Most importantly,” Zoe adds, “I reflected on the patients I had met and considered how the nurses and doctors had impacted them all differently.”

“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.”

On the whole, Zoe’s experience as a Young Ambassador with St Clare has been one of significant benefit to the aspiring teen. “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.”

“For an aspiring medical student, being a Young Ambassador constantly gave me new reasons as to why I want to study medicine.”

Young Ambassadors

St Clare Hospice will begin recruiting for our fourth round of Young Ambassadors for 2019-20 during June/July 2019. For more information, please contact St Clare’s Voluntary Service Manager, Rob Wallace, on 01279 773722 or email

Read Zoe’s Blog

You can find out more about Zoe’s experience on the Young Ambassadors project by reading her Blog, here:

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