“It’s different all the time – no two shifts are the same!”
Our volunteer hospice hosts at St Catherine’s are a key part of the hospice team working on our wards. A mixture of hospitality and social support, the role directly engages with people staying in the hospice and with their visitors.
The hospice hosts help people on the wards to feel welcomed by providing refreshments, chatting to them, supporting them in activities, and showing them around our facilities.
Maggy and Lesley volunteer as hospice hosts every Thursday afternoon and tell us more about their role:
“Before becoming hospice hosts we were both volunteering as COVID screeners at the hospice. Before that, I worked in the coffee shop and Lesley worked on the tea trolley. Now we are the tea trolley, bringing the refreshments!
“Our shift is always three hours, from 12-3pm each week. We could do the hospice hosting role on our own, but it’s nice to have someone else to chat to for companionship.
“Every family is different and it’s important to judge when it’s the right time to chat and offer help.
“If a patient needs a nurse, we can go and get someone. Or we can help them out a little if they need help or can’t reach something. Today a man asked if it was possible for his television to be lowered so he could watch it easily. We can quickly help make that happen, to make patients as comfortable as possible.
“Last week there was a man who was close to the end of his life, and his partner didn’t have anyone here, so I sat and comforted her. In this role you have to act appropriately and be intuitive to patients and visitors’ needs.”
“I am trained to do hand massages, so I have done a couple of treatments for people staying in the hospice. Sometimes a nurse will suggest it for a patient if they think it will help.
“The best thing about the role is knowing that you’re helping people. It’s different all the time – no two shifts are the same!”
“In this role you’ve got to think on your feet. Different people need different things.
“In our role we welcome people onto the ward and see how they have settled in and check if they’ve had their lunch. On our shift we always help deliver and clear away the lunches and we can cut someone’s food up for them if they need it – it’s important for their dignity that they still receive meals, and it helps a feeling of normality.
“For some people it might just be that they want a chat – sometimes they talk a lot – one man today wanted to chat to us – his wife is very poorly and isn’t able to talk, so it was good for him to have some company.
“Quite often our help is more for the visitors than the patients themselves, giving them support. The visitors can often be more confused than the patients. The patients know why they are here, but the visitors don’t know where to go, what to do or where things are. They can ask us anything and we can show them around and explain what’s available.
“We report into the nurses every shift and we see that the nurses are so busy. We can also very quickly try and sort a problem for someone. It just takes us to say, “Yes we can help.” We try to do the things that the nurses don’t have the time to do.
“Sometimes people are on the ward for a little while and we get to know them, so it can be hard as we can build a good rapport with people before they die.
“I was once given good advice and was told that each family unit here is like an hourglass with the sand gradually running out. In our role, we can stand alongside the families as the sand falls, but we have to remain at the top of the hourglass, otherwise we’ll spiral down with the emotion of it all.
“But this role can be light-hearted too, it’s lovely. You hear peals of laughter and music here, it’s not a quiet place!”
If you would like to find out more about joining our hospice hosts team, or any other volunteering role, drop us a line at email@example.com