How data inputting and conforming to changing NHS guidelines meant I could help keep grassroots football going

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Grace Etheredge talks about volunteering in data science to support her law degree

Leckhampton Rovers Football Club is a grassroots football club for children aged 5 – 18 and adults. The Club has over 30 teams, each with over 11 members. During the pandemic I took on the responsibility of ensuring data collection adhered to new Covid-19 rules.

I set up a system to manage the submission of each team’s attendance and sanitation data, in line with Government and NHS Guidance. This information was gathered so that, in the event of a Covid case being reported, teams would be able to identify possible contacts and seek medical advice.

I kept up to date with the changes in Government guidance on Covid and managed the designated email address for such submissions, logging the information on a spreadsheet, in accordance with GDPR.

In the event of a Covid case being reported, I would correspond with coaches and parents to inform them of the Government guidance, explore possible responses, and point them in the direction of medical help or equipment.

My volunteering directly assisted the organisation as it meant that the Club’s trustees and coaches could resume their roles, safe in the knowledge that I was monitoring their compliance with FA and Government guidelines.

This had a crucial impact on the Club as it meant that the coaches had a clear and centralised contact for any Covid-related issue, they could concentrate on playing football, and the hundreds of children could return to their training sessions and matches. This was especially important when restrictions meant that organised sport was the only sport some children could engage in.

The skills I have developed assist me in my work as a law student. This is because of the continued importance of self-discipline and attention to detail.I improved my time management skills as I balanced these responsibilities alongside my university work and other extra-curricular commitments. I developed the confidence to email coaches and inform them that they needed to get better at complying with the Club’s procedures. The experience has been particularly useful in my developing career as a barrister when communication, time management and self-motivation are key.

When I received a call from a coach regarding a Covid-contact, I learnt to remain calm under pressure, ask questions to ascertain the key information, and draw upon the most relevant Government guidance. I became adept at typing this up in a succinct way and highlighting the crucial sources.

Grassroots football is very important to my family and community, and it was very rewarding to be able to support its revival throughout the pandemic.

As a mother I wanted to thank the NHS with my actions, rather than my words

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Veronika Dutfield-Valeckova, Biomedical Science Student, wanted to thank the NHS through volunteering and has surpassed her won expectations

I felt that as a mother of 2 children with extensive needs, this was my opportunity to give back to our wonderful NHS. My two children have ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). I’ve been so privileged to be able to access NHS support, it was important to me to be able to thank with my actions, rather than my words. So many people have become isolated or bereaved during the past 2 years, and often they’ve had no other human contact than with me and my colleagues from the Royal Voluntary Service. For some it has become a lifeline and a connection to the outside world, and I feel pride as well as feeling privileged to have been allowed to make someone else smile. 

First Aid Response 

I’ve logged over 1000 hours since March 2020. I am available to respond to an emergency by the service users, and oftentimes get to a patient before the emergency services. As I am CPR and defibrillator trained, as well as carrying Pulse Oxymeter, I can monitor patients vital signs and administer CPR, if the situation requires it. I feel that at times, the emergency response has been vital for both patients as well as the services, given how stretched the emergency services are. I was able to provide a little bit of comfort to patients waiting for medically trained staff, whilst ensuring patients were safe. 

Community Support 

I’ve been driving vulnerable patients to and from medical appointments as well as collecting prescriptions, food shopping and dog walking for those who can’t leave the house. At my local health centre I’ve been helping with admin duties and making welfare checks by phone with vulnerable adults as well as patient monitoring during the vaccination programme delivery.  

Friendship 

Volunteering has allowed me to form new friendships, be it with the service users or my colleagues. I’ve been able to establish a support network that stretches further than the realms of my immediate community, which I’ve felt has played an intrinsic part in the success of the service delivery and service users experience. It has brought the wider community closer and with some patients, it has restored their faith in humanity and kindness, when they’ve felt like there was none. I have been incredibly privileged to play a part of a wonderful team who give up their spare time to others, and this has been such a wonderful experience that has helped my mental health and confidence like nothing else could have done. 

Learning 

I’ve learnt how to calm a distressed patient. I’ve learnt to communicate at many different levels due to patients’ different requirements and capabilities. I was able to build a strong foundation for trusting my instincts and judgement when arriving at the scene of an emergency. I’ve learnt just how powerful the ability to listen is, and how much of a difference it makes to the person who’s being listened to.  

Looking Forward 

I am still volunteering with the service, and on top of that, I have set up a community hub that feeds into a national volunteering group called The Golden Hearted UK. This hub provides crisis food parcels to people whilst they await approval for food bank access. This has proved to be an invaluable service to many. My close friend and I fundraise to provide the emergency food parcels. We are currently in the process of applying for a charity status, as we both feel, this would give us the opportunity to access more community grants, which would allow us to reach more people in desperate need. 

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

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