Jessica volunteers at Addenbrooke's Hospital

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Addenbrooke’s Hospital, also known as Cambridge University Hospital (CUH), is an internationally renowned teaching hospital as well as a research centre here in Cambridge. Addenbrooke’s is also a leading national centre of specialist treatment, a government-designed comprehensive biomedical research centre. Their vision is to improve people’s quality of life through innovative and sustainable health care. From its reputation, I was intrigued to be involved. Therefore, after some initial research, I discovered that they have a variety of volunteering opportunities to suit different people irrespective of their skills, experience, education or age.  

Volunteering can help individuals to learn new skills, gain confidence and even advance their career. It has been proven that volunteering is beneficial for both mental and physical health. Furthermore, it can help increase self-confidence, fight depression or low mood along with maintaining physical health. CUH is a very good place to volunteer because volunteers will make direct contact with patients and will be able to see the difference they are making. Additionally, CUH also provides a comprehensive introduction and optional training opportunities if volunteers are interested in that field. Lastly, they give outstanding support to each individual who decides to volunteer.  

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The young person’s volunteering programme (YPP) is provided for young people from the age of 16-19. There are two different programmes, one is held on weekdays and another one is carried out during weekends. This is to enable also those teenagers occupied with studies or work during weekdays to volunteer and gain new experiences. During this experience, young people are assigned to different wards and work in pairs, where they engage with people who are lonely, isolated or anxious. Young people provide assistance and encouragement for frailer patients, along with providing dinner meals.  

Applications are normally open from the 17th of September and close on the 7th of October. Following on from my application submission, I was shortlisted and invited for an interview. There were engaging activities and ice-breakers in order to allow us to make new friends before the start of the interview.  I was also invited to attend an introduction to the actual programme and learnt more about it and expectations from successful volunteers. Individuals are required to complete a minimum of 30 hours of volunteering or attend for a minimum of 15 weeks.  

Having secured a place for my volunteering programme, I was also invited for an induction programme where I was given insights into my role along with rules that volunteers should follow. At this stage, I was also needed to decide and agree on the dates of my volunteering (my timings were 16.30-18.30).  

Thus, from the start of 2018 I have been volunteering in Addenbrooke’s Hospital helping patients with anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and various other physical disabilities. From this experience, I have learnt the importance of concise and clear communication. I have provided assistance and encouragement for Addenbrooke’s frailer patients. Giving out dinner required a strong sense of team work and good memory. It was also part of my responsibility to engage with patients in the form of starting conversation and other activities, such as reading books, magazines or activity packs. This form of action might be simple, however it can make a great difference to patients who had a long or stressful day in the hospital. A friendly smile, a listening ear and thoughtful words are occasionally what matters the most. I was amazed at how much people valued a simple conversation about their hobbies, families, past experiences or even the weather, making this experience exceedingly gratifying. 

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From this volunteering experience, I have learnt new skills and knowledge that I would have not otherwise discovered. Being part of CUH has boosted my confidence and has broadened my social network in Cambridge as I have made more friends from different colleges. Furthermore, the help that I and my colleagues offered was greatly appreciated by both patients and staff and because of this I have been quick to be incorporated into the ward’s health care system. Volunteering has broadened my knowledge and understanding regarding some of the problems the NHS is currently facing. This is crucial for anyone aspiring to make a successful medical application.  

In conclusion, this experience has given me a great advantage and better insight regarding how hospitals in the UK function and has boosted my confidence in studying medicine at university along with my confidence in communicating with newly acquainted individuals. Furthermore, it has strenghtened my character. Therefore, I would highly recommend participating in the YPP at CUH to anyone with a strong interest in studying medicine (or a science-related field) in the future. 

Being extremely popular, YPP is often oversubscribed. The good news is that it is really easy to apply. The next YPP application process for 2019 opens Monday 6 May and close Sunday 26 May 2019. For any questions or  more information you can contact the team via email volunteer@addenbrookes.nhs.uk or telephone 01223 586 616. If you prefer to find out more online, here is the link: https://www.volunteering.cuh.org.uk/volunteering-opportunities-2/programme-for-young-people-16-19/

All volunteers are supported throughout the programme by volunteer staff and staff on the wards. At the end of the programme there is a celebration evening where volunteers are presented with 30 hour badges, certificates and a reference.

Good luck with your application!

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