“This whole place is full of love” – an interview with Hospice volunteer Nadya

At St John’s Hospice, we’re lucky enough to have a committed group of volunteers who dedicate their time to helping us provide free palliative care for more than 4,000 patients and their families – every single year.

Nadya volunteers at the St John’s Hospice Inpatient Unit, while others devote their time to the smooth-running of the day centre, the reception desk, bereavement services, fundraising admin or our charity shops. We spoke to Nadya about why volunteering is important to her, and why she chose St John’s Hospice.

What sparked your interest in volunteering?

My late father was in a hospice and I just loved the way they treated him – it was such a special atmosphere. I had always said to my father that once I give up work I wanted to volunteer in a hospice, and I’d heard a lot about St John’s Hospice and how wonderful they are here. All hospices are wonderful, but this is the one I came to; I just love it here and I’ve never looked back. It’s a wonderful, wonderful place to work, and I’ve been here for about two years now.

What did you have to do to become a volunteer?

I came along for an induction session where they explained the different roles you could volunteer for in the hospice. I always wanted to work in the inpatient department because I wanted to have contact with patients and relatives. I passed that part of the induction and then came back for another session where we did role play scenarios. After that there were DBS checks – which came through fine – and I was invited to shadow an existing volunteer. After doing that a couple of times I was let loose on my own. I love it.

How often do you visit?

I’m here once a week but I also help out at fairs and you’ll often see me out fundraising in the local area. I often end up working outside the hours of my shift to ensure that I talk to patients and visitors, and I also help at seasonal events like the 'Light Up A Life' remembrance service. I now help with inductions for new volunteers as well, talking to them about what it’s like in the inpatient unit. I’m also being shadowed by new volunteers and members of the fundraising team who are looking to learn more about how the hospice works. So I’ve got a lot of different roles now!

How do you help the patients on your shift?

I do the lunchtime shift, which means collecting the menus for the following day so that the kitchen can prepare the food. In doing that I talk to the patients, which is lovely because I get to know them and I can chat with their relatives. Sometimes you’ll find that the patient can’t fill in the menu themselves and their relative does it. It’s lovely really getting to know people. That’s what I enjoy, the personal touch.

Whenever I visit someone in their room or if I come across a visitor, I’ll always ask if they want a cup of tea, introduce myself and offer to lend a hand if there’s anything they might need. Really it’s about talking to people and making them feel comfortable, making them feel loved. A hospice is not just for people at the end of their life; people come here for respite care, they come to have their medication regulated.

This whole place is full of love. You walk in here and you can feel the love. Yes, obviously patients do pass away and that’s very sad and people do get emotional but there’s always someone to talk to – I never walk out of here feeling upset. There is no split between the staff and volunteers because they do so much here to make us feel part of the team.

What would be your one piece of advice to anyone thinking about becoming a volunteer?

Go for it! When you give to people, you get so much back – and that’s a lovely feeling. I’m doing good here, and I know it’s not a huge amount, but it’s something. As volunteers we help the hospital staff with some of the day-to-day tasks so that they can focus on their specialities. The more you volunteer, the more you want to be involved – because everyone here is just so lovely.

If you’re interested in volunteering for St John’s Hospice, click here to learn more or contact Sophie Gray at sophie.gray@hje.org.uk.

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