How Friends of Moorfields turbocharged their volunteer service with Volunteer to Career

16th January 2024

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The Helpforce Volunteer to Career (VtC) programme gave the Friends of Moorfields volunteer service a framework to attract volunteers into exploring careers in health and care, ease pressures on hospital staff, and demonstrate the positive impact of volunteers to senior hospital leaders.

Why Helpforce Volunteer to Career programme?

Natalia Tomashpolskaya, Friends of Moorfields volunteer services manager, explained: “The Helpforce Volunteer to Career programme - funded by NHS England, has given me and my team a framework that enables us to:

  • Match a volunteer’s career interests with clinical need
  • Create volunteer roles to support areas that need help
  • Demonstrate to senior hospital leaders how volunteers support staff, patients, and hospital recruitment and retention”

How the programme works at the trust

Involving clinical teams in the programme was crucial, as registered nurse Sabina Uddin, also the eye clinic liaison officer and health hub manager, explained:

“We involved the clinical teams as early as possible. To attract and keep volunteers interested we structure everything so that volunteers and staff know that anyone is welcome to talk with us at any time.”

The team began recruiting volunteers into the VtC programme, conducting interviews with volunteers to find out what areas of healthcare they were interested in before going to speak with various clinical leads to learn which areas teams wanted help with. Natalia and her team would then find or design a role with clinicians that exposed the volunteer to the best-matching environment.

Natalia says:

“We had volunteers interested in learning more about ophthalmology, so were able to speak with department heads and recruit volunteers into roles like hand-holding during cataract surgeries. We also had one volunteer who was interested in research, so were able to place them with a professor in our research team, assisting with various administrative tasks. In both examples, the volunteer was exposed to the environment they were interested in, and staff and patients benefitted from having someone to support them. Hand-holders have saved surgeons time as patients can become nervous during routine surgeries like cataract removal. Having someone there to talk to the patient and help them remain calm means we have less cancellations and happier patients.”

Attraction and evaluation

A career pathway for volunteers has been in the charity’s strategic objectives for some time, but the Helpforce Volunteer to Career programme has provided the perfect volunteer attraction and evaluation framework. At Friends of Moorfields, it encouraged Natalia and her team to think about every volunteer on an individual basis. Being able to evaluate the positive impact with accessible data from the VtC programme also helped Friends of Moorfields present evaluation reports and statistics that senior hospital leaders understood and engaged with.

VtC recruitment was so successful that Natalia and her team had to whittle it down from 40 applications to 24 as they did not then have capacity to cope with more.

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Clinical support and leadership are critical for success

Louisa Wickham, medical director at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and the first National Clinical Director for Eye Care in England, explained why she fully supported the programme:

“Volunteers are a fundamental bedrock of how we deliver patient centred care in the way we do. Volunteer to Career is a fantastic programme because it gives people the opportunity to experience what it’s like to work in a healthcare environment like ours. For me, it’s also a poignant programme as I used to volunteer serving tea and refreshments on hospital wards. I understood what it was like for staff and patients as I walked around talking with people. Having that kind of exposure to a clinical environment is exactly what Volunteer to Career champions and that is why I would recommend it to other NHS trusts.”

Helpforce Programme support

Natalia and Sabina found the support from Helpforce to be useful as well as insightful. Natalia said: “When joining the programme, we were invited to take part of workshops organised by the Helpforce team. The workshops were great! We were able to share our challenges with the Helpforce programme managers who would then give us some tools and advice on how best to tackle issues. All the guidance was tailored to wrap-around our specific challenges which was useful.

“We were also able to hear from and learn from other trusts going through similar experiences with the VtC programme. It was such a useful collective experience, and we were able to bounce different ideas of each other.

“Another positive thing about the programme that it provides a service guide which outlines key steps to roll out the programme. So, we can always go back to the guide if we need more help. But the best thing was just knowing that we could contact the Helpforce team and gain quick answers to questions or talk through problems we were having.”

What have Friends of Moorfields learned from the VtC programme?

Volunteer to Career works best as a career pathway rather than a separate programme. Natalia, Sabina and Louisa all believe it should be made available to any volunteer at any time. They also learned that support works best when tailored around the individual’s needs and preferences, combining accessibility with career interest.

The results

The best testimonial for any programme is hearing a volunteer service manager, health hub manager and consultant ophthalmologist all quoting the same statistics without hesitation.

“Out of the 24 volunteers who took part in the programme, 10 have gone onto health and care related training courses, and seven have secured full time jobs in the healthcare sector.”

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What next for Moorfields?

The team at both the hospital trust and volunteer service have embedded volunteer to career into their infrastructure and plan to continue it as a pathway for volunteers interested in a career in health and care. They also have recommendations for other organisations looking to embark on this programme:

  • Think about what volunteer roles will support your organisation and match them with the career aspirations of your volunteers.
  • Helpforce can help you evaluate the impact of a volunteer role or service and help you translate the data into language that engages a busy senior leadership.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail – the great thing about Volunteer to Career is that if one role doesn’t work, you can learn from it and adapt.
  • Walk before you run – we won’t run Volunteer to Career en-masse again, as we learned it works best as a pathway that we can make available to individual volunteers at any time.

End notes

You can learn more about how we help organisations create high impact volunteer roles and the volunteer to career programme here.

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