We put out a call and the people responded, and now we’re building an army

Posted by Dot McKeen, Manager, Middlemore Central on 10 December 2014 |

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A month ago we sent out a call to arms: we asked our community to lend a hand by volunteering at Middlemore Hospital. My name was the contact point for enquiries and I can’t believe the response! Since the Connect with Health advertorial was published in the local papers in October we’ve had more than 80 responses. Some have been very touching with one lady mentioning how a volunteer gave such a lasting impression when she was in hospital 13 years ago that she wanted to find a way to give back. We’ve even received a response from a paediatric nursing student from Ulm, Germany.

Most people think volunteers offer directions and hand out magazines, but the reality is very different.

With an increasing focus on improving the patient experience, we need even more people with time and skills to share. Volunteers provide valuable time to patients at Middlemore and the Manukau SuperClinic, with some clocking up as many as 15 years’ service. It’s estimated that 3 million people volunteer in health and social care in England – that’s roughly three-quarters of New Zealand’s population!

Our ultimate plan is to develop an ‘army’ of volunteers and link them to teams in the hospital. We want to extend their role from socialising and signposting to gathering patient feedback and even helping patients get mobile or eat meals. We see them as becoming an integral part of the care team.

We see our volunteers as complementing staff, not replacing them, improving what Philip Balmer refers to as the overall ‘spirit of care’. And we can reward volunteers with training and development.

Volunteering is a win-win, something Philip expressed really well recently. He said: “People are social beings, but we know hospital can be a lonely place. So we’re asking those in the community with time on their hands to consider giving back to their local hospital. We think everyone has something to give and our philosophy is that if you help someone you enrich their life and your own.”

Since our original call to arms we’ve appointed a new Volunteer Manager, Neshanee Naidoo. Neshanee has been working in our Recruitment Centre for the past six years and takes up her new role from 19 January. Neshanee is excited about the opportunity to build the volunteer ‘army’ and sees lots of similarities between her existing role and this new one.


Neshanee Naidoo, Volunteer Manager

Here’s how she described her new role: “Like recruitment, volunteering is about finding the right talent and that’s my new focus: finding the right volunteers to support our patients, whaanau and staff. Volunteering can also be a starting point for anyone wanting to work in health, but ultimately it’s about making a difference and it’s something our hospital volunteers do in droves.”

If you know someone who might be interested in volunteering, encourage them to visit our career website www.countieshealthjobs.com to apply online. Click on the Vacancies tab and enter job number 074049.

We are also looking for people who have been patients to visit others with the same condition. Just think how powerful it would be to hear from someone who’s been through the same thing. If you know someone who has a hospital experience to share, let them know that we’d love to hear from them.