My passion is to advocate for equality amongst the turmoil of displacement and trauma

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Beth Richardson talks about how being a Mother Companion has supported her degree to become a Midwife

I volunteered to be alongside pregnant women from different backgrounds with challenging situations, to bring skills from midwifery training to the support role but also to learn from their experience and what is needed to be able to provide culturally safe and appropriate perinatal care.

I take the role of a Mother Companion which provides dedicated support and nurturing of a woman or birthing person from any stage in pregnancy, throughout labour and childbirth and for the first 8 weeks of parenthood to help them adapt to their new role.

How I support the charity

The women and families we support are of migrant, refugee or asylum seeker status who do not have birth support or community around them. As a mother companion I provide:

Emotional Support: Space to un-pack ideas, concerns and wishes. Listening, giving encouragement, reassurance, and being a consistent physical & nurturing presence.

Physical Support: Helping with comfort measures, breath work, massage, relaxation, and guidance with infant feeding & settling.

Information Support: Sharing information, explanations and non-medical advice, guidance on NHS care, and signposting to partner agencies.

Advocacy: Facilitating communication between the people we support and care providers so that they can make informed choices. Discussing rights & entitlements in pregnancy.

Where relevant, support for a Mother’s Partner: Offering encouragement, reassurance & guidance on how to support the mother, their infant and themselves.

How volunteering has helped my career

I have been working with small teams of doullas and midwives in a capacity that holds space as a professional friend which, being different from the more clinical and investigatory role of a midwife, provides greater insights into making connections with women and families from all different cultures and backgrounds. It is incredibly inspiring.

I am building knowledge of different cultural practices and ways of being, as well as this I am building different communication skills. There is often a language barrier so learning to trust in facial expressions and body movements and showing care and compassion in this way has been great and I feel I make a deep connection with those I work with.

I am continuing to volunteer with Project Mama ongoing, taking part in training days and will do my specialist placement with them too. I plan to take my midwifery work into a global setting in the future and hope to transfer my skills to working with pregnant women in crisis situations.

My NHS volunteer role helped me achieve my ultimate dream -qualifying as a Solicitor

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James Hathaway, Advanced Legal Practice student, talks about his furlough experience

During 2020 I was furloughed for a number of months, I was undertaking my masters in law alongside my employment following my LPC course.

All of my academic studies and work experience relate to law. I have always been interested in psychology, studying this at A level, but had no real experience. My cousin was working at a crisis centre and hearing of this work re-sparked this interest, leading me to apply for a volunteering role for Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership.

After an initial interview they offered me a volunteer role as Assistant Ward Psychologist on the Silver Birch Ward. This was an acute adult inpatient ward for individuals who were incapable of supporting themselves outside of hospital due to complex mental health care needs.

I assisted the Ward Psychologist to implement and trial a new bibliotherapy session for the patients. This involved designing a programme that would focus on a specific theme each session and finding texts that were appropriate for this. The focus of this particular programme was poetry as it was proven to be effective in getting patients to talk about powerful emotions without it being too direct.

Part of this work involved reading research papers on this topic. The Ward Phycologist had been wanting to trial this for some time but did not have the staffing available. Through the hours I offered as a volunteer this allowed implementation of this session as well as the admin support needed for searching for materials and record keeping of the sessions.

The sessions proved extremely popular with service users who gave positive feedback, with some requesting certain texts and literature to be incorporated. This also provided useful insight for the psychologist. I would take notes on individuals reactions to the texts and their interactions with the group. We would later discuss these and assess the responses.

I also helped create a guide by writing collections all of the texts used, the themes and overviews of the responses received for other NHS services to implement their own bibliotherapy sessions.

I knew this experience would help develop my interpersonal and communication skills, both of these are key elements to my legal work. This work took place in a challenging environment where noticing and reacting to individuals social ques were key. This helped me learn a lot about body language and its role in communication.

I learned so much during this role, the Ward Phycologist I assisted noted my keen interest and offered me to read their research papers on the subject. This gave me a detailed insight to a profession where I had previously had none. Reading these papers also gave me a chance to practice my academic skills in analysis and research.

I also developed effective note taking skills whilst still remaining engaged and present. This has proven to be a valuable transferrable skill for my work I had not initially considered.

The feedback to our bibliotherapy session was so positive service users successfully requested it be permanently implemented. This whole experience has helped me to maintain my confidence in my abilities during an uncertain period in my working life. Being furloughed impacted my confidence and started to impact my mental wellbeing, volunteering helped me to continue to feel valued and maintain confidence in my skills.

This volunteer role has assisted me in achieving my Trainee Contract and my ultimate dream as qualifying as a Solicitor. This has given me a powerful insight into the impact volunteering can have. I would definitely consider volunteering again in any area as even a small commitment can have a large impact on others wellbeing.

United Nation Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 11. Goal 3 is good health and wellbeing. Goal 11 is sustainable cities and communities

I feel very proud of my small part, volunteering with One25

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Chloe Horton, UWE Bristol Mental Health Nursing Student

I feel very passionately about helping to protect the women One25 support. 

One25 is a charity providing support for the most marginalised women in the Bristol community. Their service users are street sex working women. I have volunteered at the drop in where the women can access emotional support, a hot meal, condoms, underwear, a nurse, a GP and also caseworkers which have a range of specialisms including domestic abuse and drugs.  

At the drop in I spend time in the kitchen serving the women and also talking with the women, seeing how they’re getting on and supporting them with practical tasks such as accessing their GP.  

I more often volunteer on the outreach van which goes out in evenings to serve a particular area where sex workers work. Women can call the van, or we spot the women, providing them with a hot drink, food, warm clothing, condoms, harm reduction packs for drug users and emotional support. The women REALLY appreciate the van and the support they gain from it. Some women will just pop to the window and get their needs met and some women will come on to the van and sit, have a hot chocolate and a good old chat. The women are sometimes intoxicated and One25 work closely with local organisations to ensure the safety of the women.  

As a student Mental Health Nurse volunteering has helped me develop my skills hugely. Just spending time with the women, that at times can be distressed, has benefited my practice. It has enabled me to gain more confidence and also to use the skills I am learning on my course with the women I am speaking to. 

I have always been interested in working with vulnerable people and having now volunteered for One25 my desire to do this has increased. 

I absolutely love volunteering and feel very proud for my albeit small part of One25.  

Global Goal 5 Gender Equality and 3 Good Health and Wellbeing

How Nursing Changed my Life

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By Emma Powell, UWE Bristol Alumni. Emma is now District Nurse Team Lead and Single Point of Access Clinical Lead at Sirona care and health.

Nursing.  What can I say?  It is not easy, not glamorous but it is very, very rewarding.  A cliché maybe but true nonetheless!  I feel very proud that I have some fantastic experiences to reflect back on, some not so fantastic but they in turn proved to be important learning curves, not just in nursing but in life.  And I knew from the beginning of my training I wanted to be a community nurse.

Back in 2004, I began my Adult Nursing degree as a mature student and I was terrified.  I was the mother of three with a husband who worked shifts and I also have Crohn’s Disease; as I stood in the reception of Glenside Campus at the UWE Bristol, I asked myself – more than once – what on earth was I doing?  I had loved my Access to Health college course but university … well, that was completely different.  It made nursing real.

And so began my nursing career, something I had aspired to since I was 14 years old. It was a completely different world. I cannot express enough how it will change you as a person and how you view the world, life and people. I remember being told this in a lecture early in the course and it has never left me.  My first year was a raw mixture of shock, horror, speechless wonderment and gratitude. I was tired, excited, happy, sad and enjoyed every placement I had – there is always something you can take from your experiences.  I’ve helped to clear all kinds of bodily fluids, comforted, cajoled, supported and listened.

As the course progressed, I knew from my first community placement, that that is what I wanted to do.  I found my niche, as they say.  I discovered I could communicate well and adapt to whatever scenario I found myself in; I had a particular passion for End of Life Care and feel very privileged to have some fantastic reflections in that discipline.  Nurse training gives you experiences and opportunities available in no other career and working as a registered nurse is a privilege and honour.  The bad days are there, I won’t dress it up – times when you want to just walk away and scream, both in nurse training and working.  I nearly left my course at the end of the second year; I was tired, fed up, drained, poor and for the millionth time, wondered why I was doing it.  A tutor told me this feeling was common, and after all the support from my family I knew I had to finish!

Two student nurses in a hospital setting are practising their skills on a dummy.
A simulation exercise with students at Glenside Campus.

I was lucky enough to get my first job in trauma and orthopaedics.  Although I knew I was a community nurse at heart, typical of many students, I wanted to work on the ward to develop myself with confidence.  Three years later I began community nursing and although I had confidence, there were so many different skill sets to learn.  You never stop learning with nursing – even now, with a career as a District Nurse Team Lead and Single Point of Access Clinical Lead with Sirona care & health – there is always something to learn.

Which leads me to Sirona care & health’s Taking It Personally which is at the heart of our organisation.  There are very good support systems for staff, whether you are struggling or doing something well, everything is recognised. There are policies in place within Sirona to support those times when life throws curveballs. I am also an author under the pen name of Louise Wyatt and was able to adjust my hours when my first book was published.  My History of Nursing book has been supported by Sirona in their newsletters and communications; in fact, all employees who have another skill or achievement outside of work are supported.  There are wellbeing, Continuing Personal Development and personal support systems – community nursing is hard and becoming more acute with a wide range of skills needed – and Sirona will support you all the way.

Taking It Personally for people in your care?  Well, you are in a person’s home and you need to respect that; all you have to do is imagine it is the home of someone you love.  That alone will guide your practice, even those visits that can leave you pressurised and emotionally challenged.  The clinical, communication and personal skills that Sirona will help you to develop will prepare you for the future and allow you to thrive, both within yourself and for modern, highly skilled community nursing.

Three students in a simulation hospital ward care for a patient.
UWE Bristol students practising Community Nursing skills.

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