Former nurse Liz Burns started to volunteer her time at Blythe House in August last year; she became one of the hospice’s first ever community volunteers, after undertaking training for the brand new programme that had launched earlier in 2018.
The Hope resident explains why she got involved: ‘I wanted to be of some service to my community, to have a sense of purpose and get some structure into my life having returned to the UK in November 2017, after being an ex-pat for the previous nine years.
‘Prior to that, I had worked for 34 years full-time in the NHS having graduated as a nurse in 1979. Since 1981, I had worked almost exclusively in cancer nursing in a variety of posts; clinically as a hospital-based Cancer and Palliative Care Specialist Nurse, and as a researcher and lecturer in cancer nursing. I took early retirement to accompany my husband when his job took him overseas.
‘Since returning to the UK full-time I had felt the need to be “of some use,” and had been looking at how I may achieve that. Being involved again on a one-to-one basis with people with palliative care needs, albeit in a non-nursing capacity, seemed an obvious fit. Blythe House is our local hospice and a friend of mine who works at the hospice posted the advert for the new community programme on her Facebook page – this inspired me to get in touch and the rest, as they say, is history!
‘Tasks I have been involved in so far include companionship: a general term, but this is a key part of every assignment – listening and being with the person. Sometimes this is as simple as just watching a favourite TV programme, chatting about it, and the inconsequentialities of everyday life. Sometimes listening to the person’s more complex and emotional concerns of how they are experiencing what is happening to them, as well as their worries and fears.
‘I have cooked meals for a family; taken patients grocery shopping and assisted them with wheelchairs in shops, driving and unpacking; collected prescriptions from the pharmacy, and undertook other small errands during my visits including going to the post office, making hot drinks, and writing addresses on envelopes for someone who had difficulty writing.
‘I have also helped with dog walking and gardening; for one patient cutting back overgrown areas, digging and weeding so that they could sit out and enjoy their garden. For another patient I have mowed lawns, weeded and cut hedges.
‘If you want to be of service to your community, enjoy being in the company of others and helping folk who are in a difficult place and could really do with a helping hand, then I would definitely recommend the community volunteer programme!’