What I learned from volunteering whilst I was a student
Volunteers play a vital role at Healthwatch, helping the public have their say in health and social care.
Why did you decide to volunteer with Healthwatch?
From my first contact with the volunteer coordinator at Healthwatch Leeds, it was clear that Healthwatch value their volunteers and allow them to have real responsibilities from the start.
What did you do as a volunteer?
I was the lead volunteer on a visit to the gynaecology ward at St James’ Hospital, where we spoke to patients about their experiences. The feedback we collected led to changes in communication with patients (around cancellation of appointments) and even to the provision of hot meals! Another visit I attended was to Armley Prison, where I led focus groups with prisoners.
For one project, I analysed data which was used in a report on sexual health (as part of a citywide review of sexual health services). It was really positive to see that our work has helped make improvements to the service, such as those relating to information about waiting times, privacy signage, communication and staff training in sexual health clinics across Leeds.
How did you feel you made a difference to health and social care in your community?
I think that the work we do at Healthwatch is vital, as it means that everyone has a voice in the issues that affect them the most. Through volunteering, I constantly felt like I’m doing something positive, and making a difference to health and social care.
How has volunteering as a student helped prepare you for work?
Volunteering gave me professional experience as I was responsible for representing an organisation and not just myself. I also gained some experience in professional report writing which is something I do in my job now.
What would you say to someone who was thinking about volunteering?
I get the feeling that the volunteers at Healthwatch are truly valued by the staff, and a lot of effort is made to ensure that projects and roles are suitable to our skills and interests.
I personally found that volunteering was a nice break from university work - it was genuinely good fun and made me feel like I was making a positive difference.