Jenny's resilience and creativity led the volunteering service throughout the pandemic

30th October 2021

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Jenny O’Boy found an invaluable way for volunteers to support the hospital and patients during the pandemic. Due to the pressures on clinical staff caused by COVID-19, the volunteering service needed to reconsider how volunteers could support patients and the workforce in a new and innovative way.

Jenny set up the ‘Response Volunteer’ model which was a revolutionary transformation on how the service historically worked. Jenny is the dedicated Senior Voluntary Services Coordinator for East & North Hertfordshire NHS Trust. She had only been in the role a year prior to the pandemic and like so many was faced with an extraordinary amount of change and adaptation to her regular duties. Jenny connected with other Trusts to query their successes and challenges implementing their ‘Response Volunteer’ models (directed by Helpforce blog posts) and she adapted the model to suit our Trust’s needs accordingly.

She took on an extortionate increase in recruitment of new volunteers whilst also assuming new supervisory responsibilities for a large group of volunteers. Response Volunteers aim to provide a flexible service which staff can call upon whenever a need for an extra pair of hands arises. They are able to access all areas of the hospital and can undertake any task which can be reasonably asked of a volunteer. This enables staff to access support for one-off or short notice tasks without having to recruit a permanent volunteer to their team. The flexibility also suits many volunteers, as they do not have to commit to a regular shift each week, but can book onto shifts to suit the time they have available.

Jenny set up systems and literature in order to ensure that the volunteers would feel prepared, informed and cared for at all times. She also promoted the new volunteer service across the Trust, created flyers for clinical staff and presented at nursing lead meetings to make them aware of the new support system available. Jenny locally inducts new volunteers and provides them with a tour of the hospital. The volunteers report to the office at the beginning and at the end of their shifts. This enables Jenny to have debriefing conversations with them as well as giving them an anonymous feedback survey to complete so we can understand what areas we can improve for the volunteers.

Jenny took the Response Volunteer model a step further – and rather than requests being restricted to staff only – patients and family/loved ones could also make direct requests of the Response Volunteers. Particularly at a time when visiting was limited in the hospital - Jenny fielded calls from family members wanting to arrange for items to be delivered to patients, to arrange for volunteers to support them with a virtual visit (video call), for volunteers to sit with particularly lonely patients or read to them etc.. Jenny was often providing on-the-job training for volunteers to ensure they felt supported and confident when completing these tasks. Not only did this new system empower patients and their loved ones to improve their own experience while in hospital – it also meant that the onus wasn’t always on already-pressured staff to make the contact and request the volunteer support. The reactive nature of this volunteer project means that Jenny has provided the Trust with a responsive service – one that meets the changing needs and priorities in the hospital.

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