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Emergency Department volunteers welcome a new tea trolley

Volunteers Kara and Eileen with the new tea trolley

Volunteers Kara and Eileen with the new tea trolley

If you are a patient or a family member supporting a loved one, the Emergency Department can be a busy, frightening, and alien place to find yourself. In amongst the hustle and bustle, however, the orange shirts of the volunteer service stand out. They give directions, offer a hand to hold and most importantly support patients with a friendly face and a listening ear. 

Our volunteers understand how a small act of kindness, like making a cup of tea, can make a big difference. They should know, some days see them handing out over 100 cups which is why their new tea trolley, funded by donations to Voluntary Services has been such a welcome gift.

“We were using a clinical trolley that was quite wobbly,” explains Jan Lawrence, one of the Emergency Department volunteers. “We were either using that or having to carry tray loads out the waiting room. Now we have the new trolley we can do more than tea, we can do toast, coffee and soft drinks.”

Jan is a relative newcomer to the department, joining in October after moving to the area from Hereford, she already volunteers in a homeless shelter, cooking breakfasts. For Jan, the Emergency Department is a familiar environment having recently retired from a nursing career. “I can’t keep away!”, she explains, “for me volunteering in mutually beneficial. The Emergency Department is quite a hard place to be, you need to be resilient and to work as part of a team.”

Kara Hole agrees: “It’s a really supportive environment to work on and very rewarding.”  Kara is in her final year studying to become a doctor. “We don’t only make tea, we cover all the major areas and waiting areas. We find relatives, sit with people who are distressed, listen to their concerns and worries. The clinical staff are always so busy, we offer the soft skills that they don’t always have the time to do. I find that volunteering here helps me when it comes to approaching patients in my training.”

Adrian Rockey is another member of the Emergency Department volunteer army, like his teammates, volunteering is a way of life. His long line of posts includes almost 5 years at The Mustard Tree Centre, St Luke’s, Tavistock Hospital, PAFC COVID boosters and working as an HCA for 10 years. “I volunteer because I love it. You deal with all sorts; every shift is different!”. 

Today Adrien is staffing the front door, but Volunteer Co-ordinator Danielle Faulkner says that her plans post-COVID involve getting the volunteers more embedded in the department. “The new tea trolley means we can physically get around to seeing more patients. I can see it taking on a life of its own, we’ve already discussed getting some fairy lights on it for Christmas.”

“Ideally, I would like to offer more things to make the wait in the department that bit easier.  We’ve thought about jigsaws and games for younger children.” Danielle who started as a Volunteer Coordinator at the beginning of the year already realises how unique her ’orange army’ are. “It takes a special kind of person to volunteer,” she says. “I have never met a kinder bunch of people and I am very proud to support them.”

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