How the Volunteer to Career programme supported Bleona’s career in psychotherapy

3rd March 2023

Bleona Ftera Resized

Bleona Ftera is a psychology undergraduate currently in her final year of study. Her interest lies in mental health and psychology, but to work in that area, she knew some kind of clinical experience would be helpful. So, Bleona applied for volunteer roles in healthcare and in June 2022, began volunteering as a Reception and Welcoming volunteer with Friends of Moorfields. It was here that Bleona learned of the Volunteer to Career (VTC) programme funded by Health Education England (HEE) and facilitated by Helpforce.

Moorfields Eye Hospital was not somewhere Bleona expected to be volunteering. Eyecare is not her main field of interest, and yet, Bleona has found herself drawing on skills she learned and developed in hospital and on the VTC programme.

Volunteering with Moorfields

Bleona’s volunteer role was to welcome patients into Moorfields City Road Hospital and help them find their way around. She supported different areas of the hospital and worked with clinical teams on patient bookings and guidance, cancelling appointments, and supporting families. Whole days were sometimes spent just talking with patients or their families as they waited for treatment. Being able to offer an empathetic ear and general information was something Bleona discovered people found immensely reassuring.

At first, Bleona was a little nervous because she had no experience working in this environment. However, the training and support she received from the Friends of Moorfields team and clinical staff was excellent.

"I found the hospital to have a very welcoming and inclusive culture. During my time there, I learned about safeguarding, and how to support patients who might be frightened or visiting the hospital alone."

Bleona also learned new things about eye conditions. Friends of Moorfields even enrolled her on added training with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) which Bleona would recommend to anyone.

"There are stereotypes that are challenged, and I got to meet people with different eye conditions and learn more about their experiences and how other people have reacted to them."

From volunteer to career

By July 2022, Bleona found herself in a career crisis over whether psychotherapy was what she really wanted to do. This was when Natalia Tomashpolskaya, the Volunteer Service Manager at Friends of Moorfields suggested Bleona join the VtC programme. Bleona had doubts, but Natalia encouraged her to apply.

The VtC programme is designed to support volunteers, like Bleona, to pursue a career in health and care. It does this by helping volunteers build experiences that align with their career goals. By allowing Bleona to explore her health and care career interests at Friends of Moorfields, the programme simultaneously created another potential skilled professional for the NHS.

How the programme has supported volunteers and staff

The VtC programme gave Bleona the latitude to explore her own healthcare interests whilst equipping her with transferrable skills. It’s helped her become an administrator at another hospital and has also taught her to empathise and talk with patients and families who can be frightened and frustrated.

Angela Smith is the Chief Executive of Friends of Moorfields and has seen the success of the VtC programme first hand. She said:

"Being part of Helpforce’s ‘Volunteer to Career’ programme has elevated the status of the volunteer service at the Trust. Being able to talk about volunteering as a steppingstone to a career in the NHS has also led us to present at 15 local schools, colleges and universities generating more than 100 volunteer applications."

The value of the programme is being recognised at all levels too with Muna Abdullahi, the Lead Pharmacy Technician in Clinical Services & Operations Pharmacy Department at Moorfields Eye Hospital saying:

"We can’t thank the volunteers enough for everything they have and continue to do. I want them to know we value and appreciate them and consider them part of our team."

Martin Kuper, chief executive at Moorfields Eye Hospital said:

“Bleona’s story is yet another superb example of the benefits of Helpforce’s Volunteer to Career programme. So many dedicated volunteers have been able to lend their support to the trust while growing skills and experience invaluable to a career in healthcare. We are deeply grateful to all the work our volunteers do to improve the patient experience at Moorfields, and would certainly recommend the programme to anyone interested in joining the NHS.”

Bleona would recommend the VtC programme to anyone. She believes it has built her confidence, increased her administrative ability, and helped her become more empathic. And it works. Bleona was offered two roles with Moorfields but turned them down to take a role as Team Administrator in the Mental Health Eating Disorders clinic at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

"I now get to work with clinical psychologists and psychotherapists, but if it wasn’t for the Volunteer to Career programme and the team at Friends of Moorfields, I probably would not have got the job."

For more information about Volunteer to Career and how to take part, please visit our Volunteer to Career pages.