Walk in my shoes – the NHS volunteer experience

1st November 2018

Research tells us that there are millions of adults who would consider volunteering in health and care, if only they were asked. So, how do we harness this willingness? One way is to make volunteering as easy, attractive, and enjoyable as possible. By doing this we believe we could increase the number of people who volunteer, and the range of volunteer roles available to them in our health service.

One of the key ways to improve their experience is to listen to them and design solutions with their needs in mind. This inspired us to look into human-centred design – a process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs.

Over the summer, we worked closely with Snook to build a deep understanding of the needs and wants of those who volunteer in our NHS. Here are a few things they told us, with a brief look at the ways we can improve things for volunteers:

A simple ‘thank you’ from staff and patients carries a lot of mileage.”

People from all walks of life have a strong desire to help their local NHS by supporting busy hospital staff and patients. They told us that to keep them motivated, we need to help them feel like a part of a team with staff and fellow volunteers.

As a volunteer, I need flexibility, so that I can volunteer in and around my other commitments.” People who volunteer have busy lives and other responsibilities – whether that’s going to school, juggling work commitments, caring for others, or more. To engage with people who might not normally volunteer, or indeed just make it easier for people, we need to start thinking about offering new ways to volunteer, such as micro-volunteering.

In later life, you come with professional experiences you want to use.

We’ve identified a handful of different reasons people choose to volunteer – from people who want experience in the NHS in order to pursue a career in the health service, to carers of ex-patients that want to give back to the services that supported their loved one. It is vital to understand different motivations, life experiences, skills, and so on, and match them to appropriate roles – with appropriate training and support. This is key to keeping people engaged and feeling valueed.

We’re looking forward to sharing more on this work over the coming months. If you are doing something interesting, or if you volunteer in health and want to get more involved in our work, please contact us – we’d love to hear from you.

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