Advantages Great work experience, giving something back to the community, rewarding
Disadvantages May be boring, co-workers may not be very pleasant!
When I was studying for my A-Levels I was thinking about careers and I looked at being a nurse or a midwife. So I applied to my local NHS hospital to do voluntary work hoping this would give me an insight into the role of a midwife. I also needed to pad out my UCAS form a bit!The application process:
Why volunteer in the NHS?
If you want any kind of healthcare career, be that being a nurse, doctor, physiotherapist or one of the many other roles in the NHS, you need work experience. Places on these courses are very competitive and you need some form of extra curricular activity to put on your application form, be that working in a care home or as a nursing auxiliary. Many people volunteer instead, even though it isn't paid it offers you an in-depth look at the NHS without the hours and commitment you would need to put into a paid job. It also looks great on a CV whatever career you go on to do, helps with personal development and can be very rewarding. A lot of volunteers are also retired people.
What does a volunteer actually do?
The role can vary a lot and can include: Helping on wards - talking and helping patients - Assisting with meals on the wards, general errands for both staff and patients, e.g. collecting items prescriptions from the pharmacy. Welcoming patients arriving at the main hospital reception, helping to run day clinics, doing clerical and administrative tasks or volunteering in the WRVS shop, which most hospitals seem to have.
Help with expenses:
The hospital will also pay any travel expenses you incur. You also get a discount on food in the canteen. Many Trusts will also hold a yearly party for their volunteers.
Whilst the nursing auxiliaries and ward clerks were generally very pleasant, I found the opposite to be true of the medical staff. The midwives were generally quite dismissive of my desire to be a direct entry midwife, apparently they 'are all rubbish' and the best route to midwifery is to be a nurse first and then do a conversion Midwifery course even though by this point I had no desire to be a nurse. They moaned about how busy they were yet had plenty of time to drink copious cups of tea and gossip about their patients! I was never given a chance to observe the midwives even though I politely asked. I found an awful lot of the hospital staff to be rude, unhelpful and unfriendly.
After 6 months I decided to say goodbye. I had seen enough and decided a career in healthcare was not for me. I wrote a polite letter to the voluntary services manager and handed my badge in. If you are serious about a career in healthcare and are unhappy with your placement I suggest discussing this with the manager and moving departments. If you want to be a nurse you are probably better off being a part time nursing auxiliary-at least you get paid, get to carry out clinical tasks and get trained!
I have now started to volunteer again on a Monday evening on a Care of the Elderly ward. I find this very rewarding and think that the patients enjoy having someone to chat to-the nursing staff are always too busy.
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