AS A growing number of patients require palliative or end-of life care, volunteer nurses are becoming crucial and increasingly sought-out members of the Prospect Hospice team.
The new role was introduced nearly two years ago in a bid to ensure each hospice user receives the best possible care, as much attention and one-on-one support, whether medical or psychological, as necessary.
A precursor at the charity, Margaret Manley, who became a cadet nurse at the age of 17, chose not to let her skills and decades of experience in the medical field go to waste by offering up her services in the in-patient unit following her retirement in 2012.
The 63-year-old, of Broad Town, enquired about a volunteer position and has been assisting staff and patients weekly since May 2013.
“It was just a phone call to Prospect’s voluntary service,” said the mother-of-two.
“I thought I might be useful there having been a nurse all my life. I had never been to Prospect before but I knew people who had been to Prospect and others who had lost someone in Prospect.
“They said they were introducing volunteer nurses and it seems that it was meant to be.”
Margaret was employed at the Savernake Hospital in Marlborough before becoming a practice nurse at Marlbo-rough Medical Practice.
Retiring meant that she relinquished her registration and is not able to perform all regular nursing duties such as administering medication.
Yet her new role has allowed her to go back to basics and concentrate on the human aspect of the profession, something she had not had the opportunity to truly do for some years.
“I am helping with basic nursing care, washing and dressing patients, getting them up, feeding them and chatting with them,” she added.
“Because I’ve now relinquished my registration I can’t do things that involve drugs and I work alongside a trained nurse. I am going back to what I started with during my nursing training. This for me is great because I‘ve been through my career being a manager and now I don’t have to worry about this responsibility anymore and I work just with the patients.”
She added: “I do whatever they need me to do; sometimes it’s just a case of sitting with a patient.
“I think a lot of people don’t realise you can be a volunteer nurse.”
Although she had previously dealt with terminally-ill patients, comforting them at moments of irrepressible distress and anguish, as a hospital nurse Margaret had little experience of palliative care or of working among such a patient-focused team.
“I find it quite rewarding,” added the grandmother-of-two. “Compared with the NHS you get a lot more time with the patients. At the hospice everything is done to suit the patients and it’s about what they want when they want it.
“I value the time you are allowed to spend with each patient. There is no rush or time limit. Being a volunteer is different to doing it as my job. It feels good to be able to give something back.
“People’s perception of a hospice is that it is gloomy, dull and miserable but as well as sadness there is a lot of laughter. Volunteering at the hospice is not distressing but relaxed and completely different from a hospital.
“Volunteering gives staff that extra help and allows them to spend more time with each patient. Some days they are fine but other days are more hectic and they need help.”
Margaret is now one of two volunteer nurses but the hospice is hoping to recruit a whole team of trained nurses keen to give up their time and offer their expertise to the charity.
“It’s a very recent role and Margaret was almost a pilot,” said Phillipa Huxtable, voluntary services manager.
“With the success of her integration into the nursing team, we have had a push for recruitment this year. We have received eight applications, which is fantastic.
“We would like to have to have a volunteer nurse every morning and every afternoon during the week and, as we go along, we will think about the weekends as well.
“Our volunteer nurses are not there to deliver core services but to enhance the services that professional nurses deliver and to allow them to get on with what they do best”