Guest blog post: Why being a Volunteer is Important in healthcare?

And how to keep them happy and feeling valued.

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Hi, My name is Mark Hudson, You probably have no idea who I am, that’s ok I’d be surprised if you did. Olivia and I met in August of 2018 at an ICU steps Edinburgh event, Creativity in ICU recovery, it was my first speaking event. I was nervous as talking about what happened to me in ICU is not easy, it is bearing my soul, several people spoke at me. Note that AT me, an ex ICU consultant who basically telling me about what a patient goes through in recovery, arrogant right? Other spoke at me telling me why they where great, Dr Ramsay introduced herself but was very busy so during the event didn’t have the time to talk (which is fine there was a lot going on). So, who was the first person who actually spoke to me? Who treated me like a person, a person whose view was important? Olivia. I don’t have many friend but I make them fast, with me its all in or all out, I don’t have any middle ground. My health issues and nearly dying in ICU made some things clear to me, life is short and as such you should surround yourself with good people. I chose to surround myself with great people like Olivia.

I have only met Olivia one other time in the real world but I am happy to call her one of my best friends. Why I hear you asking? Because we have fought in the trenches of Critical Illness, we have battled ICU Delirium, we have had to deal with life long health issues and we have both made it through mostly intact. Ok so now to get to the point of the blog, I hear you saying thank god, a bit rude but that ok I forgive you 😉

I was given an opportunity to Volunteer after I completed my ICU rehabilitation clinic I was invited to become the peer support volunteer for the clinic it was a big deal to me as it was an opportunity to pay back for the people who saved my life and help to make those who came after me in ICU’s lives a bit better. A chance to make a real difference in peoples lives, this is the main reason why people volunteer in these types of positions. However, it is very easy to take them for granted, after all they are not paid so they are valued as, less right? Well no because you are being paid to do your job, they are giving up their time and experience. So how do you avoid this pothole, well you do somethings my team did with me, you listen to their input taking it seriously and weighting as equal to the other team members or greater depending on the subject. Also inviting them to any Quality improvement meetings you have and treat them like one of the team as they are not a guest they are very much in your team. Other things like remunerating for their travel is important too as why should they be out of pocket for helping you out.

I have now started doing what I call freelance volunteering inside my health board mainly on Delirium so far. This is where I am brought in to talk say at a conference or training session etc. Now these situations are trickier for the people who are bringing the Volunteers in because unlike my clinic experience, I am not part of the team. However, in this situation I am being brought in as an ‘Expert’ now this can be a problematic area as you are often viewed on as a free resource. No other expert would be looked at in that way, it is as if because you are giving your time up for nothing you lose position you become an almost inferior. This is the worst thing you can do to a volunteer because you will make them feel like a failure and not respected, which will make them much less likely to volunteer with you or anyone else for that matter. So, I hear you asking how to avoid this, its trickier, because there is not usually a pre-existing relationship it can be tricky. Here is my ‘guide’: if you are in a faraway or difficult to get to part of a building meet them at the front door; if there are other speakers or ‘important’ team members introduce them and say they have came to help you do x or have Volunteered to show us X it shows they are important; Introduce them before they speak and thank them when they are done in front of the group it shows their value to the group; and at very very least offer to pay any travel expenses because why should they pay to help you.

Ok so the serious stuff aside it boils down to is remember they are a human being put yourself in their shoes and see how you would want to be treated. Remember they owe you nothing, they do not need to help you, that is sometimes forgot. They do not need to give you their time, insights, wisdom or bear their soul to you. They are giving you a gift, its not yours to take or demand its theirs to give so remember that when you are working with volunteers.

Mark also writes his own blog which is well worth a read. Mark is also an avid poet writing some fantastic poems. I have been very fortunate and Mark has penned a few poems for me which I will post for others to enjoy too!!

Mark’s blog is: https://autoimmunedisorderjourney.blogspot.com

Twitter: @MarkThomHudson

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