Meet the volunteers making a difference at Rochdale Infirmary

Joan and Edna - volunteers
Meet the volunteers making a difference at Rochdale Infirmary
03 July 2020

Volunteering in the NHS is something that anyone with spare time on their hands could consider doing.

Edna 75 (pictured right), was made to retire due to ill health many years ago yet she felt like she still had lots to offer and wanted to help others.  Following a removal of a thyroid tumour at Rochdale Infirmary her doctor suggested she took up a hobby to pass her time, maybe learning a foreign language and travelling or learning to sing and join a choir. None of these suggestions were appealing to Edna so she was asked to think of something before her next medical appointment.

Edna thought about her skills, how as a secretary she had come into contact with lots of people and had to deal with confidential information and as part of her duties she did first aid. On her return to Rochdale Infirmary saw the volunteers and thought this could be for her.  That was in 2004 and for the last 16 years she has been kept busy helping out each week on the front desk. 

Edna said: "You never know what is around the corner, I have had a lot of dealings with the NHS and know how worrying it can be when you have to go to hospital, having experience counts for a lot, that is why I like being a volunteer, as I understand what they are going through and can help patients and their relatives. I wanted to show my appreciation for the help I have received. A token of thanks."

The duties Edna and the other volunteers perform are more than just giving directions. They escort patients to day surgery if they are struggling and if they are too unwell to use the stairs and have to use a lift they will accompany them if they are frightened. If a patient is worried they advise the patients who to speak to, book taxis if the patient cannot use the telephone and recommend the Rochdale Volunteer Drivers Service if the patient is suitable as well as many other duties. They are the front desk to the hospital.

Now at 75 years of age, Edna has been self-shielding due to the Coronavirus, yet is still keen about starting back volunteering at Rochdale Infirmary.  Edna said: "There will be lots of people who will need my (volunteers) help and I need to be there for them. There has been lots of changes to the hospital (Rochdale Infirmary), lots of improvements and now we are given guidance and updates of all of these, so when a patient or relative turns up we can help them and take away some of their worries.

Many volunteers in the NHS have worked for several years and their contributions are invaluable but sometimes not recognised outside of the NHS. They give up their time for free so they can help out in any way they can and are essential in keeping the NHS going.

Joan Elson (pictured left), aged 82 has worked as a volunteer for the last 20 years at Rochdale Infirmary. 

The month after she retired, Joan knew she wanted to help out in the NHS and especially Rochdale Infirmary, as a fellow patient in the past and had first-hand experience of their great service, she knew she wanted to give something back. Having had a fractured leg two years ago and being told her walking would be limited was devasting news for Joan as she always considers herself to be active. Meetings with her doctor at Rochdale Infirmary he agreed to a further operation that would give her greater movement in her leg and be able to continue to be as active as she used to be despite being 81 years old. This operation took place at Salford Royal and she is now able to continue with her passion for fell walking. 

Joan said: "I wanted to give back to those that had helped me. Knowing what a wonderful job the NHS has done for me over the years I felt like I wanted to pay back what I could."

Joan works on the reception desk and loves to help patients, relatives and staff with all sorts of queries and questions.  Her role is very important as it helps people to get to where they need to and understand what they need to do next.  Joan speaks to everyone at the desk that are coming into or leaving the hospital and will go out of her way to make sure they feel welcomed and listened to.

Since the start of Covid-19 Joan has been self-shielding and like the rest of us she missed going outside and meeting up with her family and friends. It’s not the first time Joan has seen some of the impact of Covid-19, as a little girl, Joan remembers a Typhoid epidemic and queueing up for her jab for hours and hours and that was in the days when you had to pay your GP to see them.

As a keen fell walker and active person she especially misses the outdoors but most of all she misses her job and the people she meets.

Joan said: "I cannot wait for all of this to be over and it is safe to go back to work. It’s a pleasure, being part of the NHS.  I love it.  I have made many friends and it keeps me feeling young."

As a volunteer, Joan remembers when she started work in the NHS and was given a uniform and a desk to sit at but now she says it has changed so much as she now gets regular training and is given staff updates of all of the services around so that she is as informed as she can be and now gets recognition for her duties she performs at the hospital by her fellow colleagues.

Thank you to all our volunteers across the NCA.