During this year’s Volunteer Week we talk to one of our fabulous volunteers, Jacquie Jones about her experiences during the last 12 months.
How has 2020 been for you?
A relatively simple question people are asking others right now, but everyone has very different answers.
For me, 2020 started out at midnight on the Newcastle Quayside with a broken foot; standing with my husband, daughter and friends watching the fireworks to welcome in the New Year.
Only 8 weeks later, at the beginning of March, I realised it wasn’t really the year we all wanted to welcome. My mam was admitted to hospital with a chest infection at around the time Covid19 was hitting the news. She tested negative on arrival, which was good. Two weeks later, having made a full recovery, I visited her on the Friday before the Monday she was due to be released.
It was a really good visit, I was able to kiss her, hold her hands and hug her. She was in good spirits and looking forward to coming home. That Sunday, not feeling well, they tested her again for release. She tested positive.
What followed was 3 weeks of torture. Not only for us as a family but for Mam. She was in a lot of pain. This was right in the middle of full lockdown. I had to self-isolate from my husband, and developed Covid19 symptoms. I remember taking the call that Mam was close to passing and my husband stood in the doorway, not able to hold me, I still had 3 days of isolation left.
We were told we could have 1 person visit, 1 time. We decided it should be my brother. He was kitted up in full PPE and was able to facetime me and the rest of the family for us all to say goodbye to Mam. Mam looked straight down the lens at me and let out a scream in pain. That’s the last memory I have of Mam. Mam died on Good Friday, the day we recorded the most deaths. Still in full lockdown we didn’t get a funeral. What passed was a complete blur.
I was still working as a Personal Assistant, and was under a great deal of stress. I had asked to take a little time out of the days to deal with everything that was happening. Sadly this wasn’t possible due to the nature of our work and so I made the decision to hand my notice in and take a career break. Some might consider this rather strange in the middle of a pandemic, but for me I was trying to cling on to my mental health.
I knew instantly what I wanted to do, I wanted to volunteer with anything I could around the Covid19 appeals. Which brought me to Newcastle Hospitals.
Why I chose to volunteer for the Trust?
My Sister in Law is a nurse and worked tirelessly through the death of her Mother in Law and the whole pandemic, she is our family’s NHS angel. So, it made sense to me to look to volunteer in and around the NHS where possible. GoodSam in my area wasn’t taking on new volunteers so I kept googling. Eventually I found this volunteering opportunity and felt I had the right personality and qualities needed, so sent off my initial email.
My experience from start to placement
After I had expressed an interest in the Trust, I received a friendly email back from Alexandra with further details of the position and an Application Form which I duly completed. I was invited to Regent Point to meet Alexandra and we discussed in more detail the position, expectations (on both sides) and availability – this is what initially concerned me as I was also volunteering with 2 other charities (#PinYourThanks and St Oswalds Hospice), however I needn’t have worried as the Trust was so accommodating, plenty of different time slots were available and a variety of locations were an option too.
Once we were both happy, my photo was taken for my ID badge and my DBS paperwork was sent off. Luckily my DBS was returned quite quickly and I could start the eLearning training. This took a little longer than I thought, however once I realised these could also be completed on a mobile phone, I was able to run through them more quickly; each course was around 30 minutes.
Once completed and my references were back, I had a call where we sorted which shift(s) I could work. This was fully flexible and I had plenty of choice. I was sent full paperwork for where I was to go, risk assessments, parking facilities etc.
On the day of my first shift, I collected my Tshirt and badge from the hospital reception and made my way to the clinic I would be working in. I was introduced to everyone, and shown around the facilities. My 4 hours passed relatively quickly and enjoyably. Everyone was so friendly and appreciative of me being a volunteer.
Being called a ‘purple angle’ from a nurse on duty was extremely humbling.
If you are thinking of volunteering why should you choose this Trust?
I think with everything going on in the world right now, a lot of people are looking at ways to create a better work/life balance and are looking at ways they can give something back to society and help people. Volunteering within the NHS is a very rewarding volunteering opportunity, where you can genuinely feel as though you are helping in a small way but also feel hugely appreciated. The application process is pretty straightforward with help at every opportunity if needed.
The Trust has so many different opportunities I find it hard that someone couldn’t be match with something they wanted. Over this pandemic, people have had to change and adapt to a very different way of working and socialising.
This time last year I was Group Level PA for a FTSE100 company, in an unbelievably fast paced environment. I can honestly say I loved it. However, instead of arranging meetings with Members of Parliament or preparing presentations for City Reporting, I’m now helping those with NHS appointments and preparing people for their meetings with the Specialists. I’m friendly, personal able and have great empathy, I would recommend volunteering to anyone with an interest in helping people and giving something back.
I can understand people saying they don’t have the time, however the volunteering opportunities could be 3hrs a week, it really is worth just sending off that initial query for more information as you don’t know where it might lead.
If you would like to find out more about volunteering for the Newcastle Hospitals please visit: