Alison Edwards – Volunteer
“I love every minute of volunteering!”
Ask Alison about her volunteering work for Princess Alice Hospice over the past three years and she has to think for a moment. She has done so much for us, it’s quite a long list. “At first I helped at events like the London Marathon, manning the Cheer Station and meeting and greeting the runners. Then I started to help out the Fundraising team in the office, doing research, stock taking and general admin.”
As time went on, Alison got more involved. “I’m now the local coordinator for Staines and Egham which means I distribute collection tins and leaflets to shops, pubs, cafes and clubs. And because of my teaching background, I was asked to become an Ambassador for Princess Alice. I give talks to organisations and clubs mainly. Recently I spoke at a golf club dinner telling the members how the money they’d raised for us is spent.”
“We got amazing care – it was a weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Like many volunteers, Alison wanted to give something back for the care her husband, Les, received from Princess Alice. “Les wanted to stay at home so we had a home nurse and an occupational therapist who were brilliant. But when he got more poorly, he had to go into the Hospice for two weeks. The care was amazing – they looked after me, my kids, the whole family.”
“Towards the end Les made it clear he wanted to be at home. So they moved heaven and earth to make it happen. Equipment arrived, we had round the clock care and Steve, the Hospice chaplain, arranged for a Roman Catholic priest to visit. And when Les died, Steve led the funeral service, making it inclusive for everybody just as he had wanted.”
“I’ve made lots of friends.”
Alison enjoys the works she does for us. And there’s been another benefit. “I meet lots of new people. In fact, I met my two best friends through volunteering. It’s been a win-win situation for me.”
All volunteers at Princess Alice are trained and supported in the work they do. “There is generic training about working for the Hospice but also specific training for your role. I’ve always felt respected and valued for what I do.”
“I’ve even got my dog, Millie, to volunteer!”
Volunteering has changed Alison’s life. She’s been given new opportunities and the chance to meet new people. She would recommend volunteering for Princess Alice to anyone. “It’s so rewarding and whatever your skills, there’ll be a role for you.”
Alison is such a great ambassador for us that she’s even roped her family in to help. “My daughter ran the Marathon for Princess Alice. And even my dog, Millie, has got involved. Every other Tuesday she comes to the Hospice with me to work as a Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog. She loves meeting the patients and families and being made a fuss of.”
Tim Iredale – Senior Partnerships Fundraiser
“I love working here. The days fly by.”
Tim used to work for a recruitment agency – until he found himself another job at Princess Alice! “I’d come across vacancies in Fundraising and I’d think ‘that job sounds a lot more interesting than mine!” he says, “so one day I decided to test the water by volunteering. I was lucky enough to get a placement in the Communications team at Princess Alice. Then, after a while, I was offered a job in the Fundraising team.”
It was a tough decision to make but Tim has never regretted it. “I went with my heart,” he says, “and I’ve loved it. It’s really interesting and challenging.” And, of course, there’s the satisfaction of knowing he’s making a difference. “When I worked in recruitment I always used to almost apologise for my job. Now I’m proud to say I’m a fundraiser.”
“The variety in this job is great. Who knows what I’ll be doing?”
Tim’s role involves managing relationships with community and corporate partners and organising fundraising events. No two days are the same and he loves that. “I could be talking to someone on the phone who’s climbing a mountain for us, delivering stuff in the van to various events or dressing up as Alice Bear, the Hospice mascot!”
One of his proudest achievements has been organising the annual Santa Fun Run. “It was the first event I’d ever organised. I had to sort out all the logistics, liaise with Royal Parks, source hundreds of Santa suits and then turn up and manage things on the day. But it all went well. And the next year was even better. I love attending the events. I really enjoy manning one of the ‘cheer stations’ at the London Marathon – it’s my way of supporting all these amazing people who raise money for us.”
“They try to nurture your interests.”
One thing Tim has really appreciated is that at Princess Alice everyone is encouraged to develop their skills and follow their interests. “They know that I like writing and creative stuff so they got me involved in developing our new website alongside people from other departments. They said, ‘We’d really like to use your brilliant way with words.’ So that was nice!”
“I love my team – I consider them really good friends.”
Princess Alice Hospice is no ordinary working environment. Tim noticed the difference right away. “I’ve had jobs where I’ve trudged to work thinking ‘I don’t want to be here.’ But at Princess Alice, there’s a genuine sense of warmth – like a family. I live in London so I have quite a commute but I love it here. People I don’t even know will stop and chat.” And, of course, there’s the added bonus that everyone at Princess Alice enjoys. “I get the satisfaction of going home at the end of the day knowing that I’ve done something good.”
Serena Shakshir – Volunteer
“It’s the most life affirming thing you can do.”
In year 13 at school and with A levels to study for, Serena didn’t have a lot of time to spare. But as she was hoping to study medicine, she was really keen to get some experience caring for people. So she was delighted to be offered the opportunity to volunteer for four hours a week at Princess Alice Hospice.
“I worked as a ward support volunteer. So I’d do things like restocking the ward supply cupboards and the patients’ personal cupboards,’ says Serena. “Then at dinner time I’d help deliver the food. It was very rewarding because the patients really appreciated it.”
“I think the key thing is to have valuable time with people.”
As time went on, Selena was allowed to help with basic patient care, helping them use the toilet, making sure they were comfortable in bed and doing mouth care for them. She really enjoyed this one to one contact with the patients.
“They love to reminisce and share their wisdom with me. Being with people at their most vulnerable was a privilege. Once I spent three hours of my shift just sitting with a lady because she was feeling sad. I gave her a hand massage and it really seemed to calm her down.”
“It confirmed my career choice so it was a very positive experience.”
Working at the Hospice confirmed Serena’s choice to go into medicine. “I surprised myself how strong I was. Now, knowing that I can cope with it, I feel a duty to do it.”
It has also helped her secure a place at medical school. “Being able to talk about my experience at the interview helped. I was able to demonstrate how I’ve grown.”
Serena also liked the fact that she has come out of her experience with something to show for it. “As part of my placement, I had to fill in a workbook which recorded all the things I’d done. At the end I was awarded a care certificate qualification which is amazing.”
“Whatever you do will help people. Just go in there and do what you can.”
Work experience at the Hospice isn’t just for people thinking about careers in medicine. It can benefit anyone. Serena’s advice? “Having the chance to help people is very special. So don’t be scared. You never have to do anything you don’t want to do. It made me a more caring person, a better person.”
Keith Sturge – DHL
“We like working for a company that cares”
International courier company DHL deliver items all over the world. But they also deliver much needed support to Princess Alice Hospice. Keith Sturge from DHL’s office in Slough explains how the company first got involved, “The husband of a colleague had been cared for at Princess Alice Hospice. One day I went to the Hospice with her to see his name in the book of remembrance. Our involvement with the Hospice really started from there.”
“Because we go to the Hospice, we can see where our money is going”
Every September around 25 employees of DHL celebrate Global Volunteer Day by giving up a day to work for PAH. They’re put to work painting garden furniture, mending fences, delivering leaflets and helping out with admin. “We get a lot out of volunteering,” he says, “It’s so rewarding – it adds to our sense of wellbeing.”
Being at the Hospice also made Keith and his colleagues realise just how badly their support is needed. “When we realised how much it costs to run a hospice, it spurred us on”, Keith says. Over time DHL’s support for the Hospice has grown so that as well as volunteering for us, they have become some of our most enthusiastic fundraisers.
“You’d be surprised how much it contributes to team work”
The company runs events all year round to raise money for the Hospice. The charity car wash day alone raised a fantastic £1,200. There are also book sales, raffles and collections throughout the year and one brave lady took part in the Santa Fun Run. “Fundraising is good for getting us together as a team and doing something different,” says Keith, “It’s a real bonding experience.”
What’s really great is that the company fully supports everything their employees do for the Hospice. DHL provide a Match It! programme which enables the Hospice to receive further funds in recognition of DHL employee volunteering and fundraising activities. Fortunately for us, DHL are keen to keep up their relationship with the Hospice. “We have personal attachments to PAH,” says Keith, “It’s close to our hearts.”
“Take a brave step and go there”
Keith doesn’t hesitate to recommend working with Princess Alice Hospice to other local companies: “At some point in your life someone in your family, company or community may need help from the Hospice. It’s opened my eyes to what end of life care is and what we can all contribute. Plus it’s such a welcoming place to be – I find it a very calming experience and one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.”
Seeva Sawmynaden – Volunteer driver
“I feel like we’re doing a good thing”
After a long career in nursing, you’d think 72 year old Seeva would want to put his feet up. Not at all. Seeva is one of our highly dedicated and long-serving volunteers. Altogether, he has volunteered for us for an amazing 17 years, driving patients to the Hospice and helping out in the coffee shop.
“It’s nice for them to be out, even for just one day”
Volunteer drivers play a really important role. Many of our patients are elderly and unable to drive or use public transport. So drivers like Seeva pick them up from home and bring them to the day hospice to enjoy activities and some much-needed company. He understands how important this weekly outing is to many of his passengers, who spend most of their time alone. He even makes sure they enjoy the journey by chatting to them, or putting on the radio if they prefer.
“I enjoy the contact with people”
But what does Seeva get out of volunteering for the Hospice? Seeva strongly believes that it’s important to give back to his community. And he also feels a special connection to the Hospice who cared for his wife back in the late 1980s.
Now living alone, Seeva really enjoys his volunteering days. He is able to claim mileage for his driving, and his time is given very gladly. “I get something out of it,“ he says, “it gets me out of the house.”
“It’s like a family”
As well as meeting the patients, Seeva also enjoys being part of the Princess Alice Hospice team. He feels very valued and supported. “There’s always training available and we can get help and advice whenever we need it.”
Seeva really enjoys the social side too, getting to know other volunteers and staff. He even recruited an ex-colleague of his to join the driving team when she retired! And speaking of retirement, does he have any plans to take a well-earned rest? Absolutely not. “I intend to carry on volunteering indefinitely. I want to continue as long as I can.” We’re very glad to hear it.
Megan Andrews – Graduate executive assistant
“I really like doing meaningful work”
Megan fell in love with the charity sector while still at university. While studying for an English degree, she found time to volunteer as a coordinator on a project helping isolated elderly people. After graduating, she spent three months working as a volunteer in Nepal.
She was thrilled to be offered a job at Princess Alice Hospice: “I came here through CharityWorks, an organisation that matches graduates with employers from the not-for-profit sector.” As an executive assistant, she provides admin and research support for the Hospice’s five programme boards that implement major programmes such as Compassionate Communities. It’s exciting work that puts her at the heart of the Hospice’s plans for the future.
“I get to see elements of all the Hospice’s work”
As well as preparing documents and arranging meetings, Megan carries out research that informs the work of the programme boards. “Working with the Compassionate Communities programme board is really interesting – the Hospice is aiming to empower people in the community to reach out and help each other.”
As part of this, Megan has gained valuable research experience, looking into services available locally for frail people. “It’s very rewarding. I know my reports will make a difference.”
Like everyone in the Hospice, Megan has also been encouraged to learn about other aspects of the work. So far she has been lucky enough to shadow a nurse in the community and in the day hospice.
“There’s a culture that you can ask anyone anything”
Starting any job can be daunting but Megan soon felt at ease at the Hospice. “It’s overwhelmingly friendly. On my first day I went to lunch and sat on a table on my own. Straight away someone came over and invited me to join them. There was also a staff party in my first week so I got to know a lot of people through that.” Megan also really appreciated being able to get help whenever she needed it. “There’s an open door policy and a culture that you can ask anyone anything.”
“You’ll be stretched and you’ll learn a lot”
Would Megan recommend working at Princess Alice Hospice? Definitely. “It’s a great place to learn about healthcare and the not-for-profit sector. And it’s so inspiring to work with people who are really knowledgeable and committed to what they do. You’ll be encouraged to learn on the job and if you want to do internal or external courses, you’ll get plenty of opportunities.”
Martin Shine – Senior healthcare assistant
“Every day is a learning day because each patient is different”
Martin has been at the Hospice for six years now. He works on the inpatient unit, giving personal care to patients nearing the end of their lives. It’s very different from his previous job as a manager, but Martin has no regrets. “My happiness is more important than money“ he says, “I enjoy coming to work every day.”
As a care assistant, Martin has a lot of contact with the patients. He washes them, helps them eat and drink and talks to them. “You feel that you’ve achieved something. You’ve made sure that their last days are comfortable and pain free.” It’s a very special relationship and Martin feels privileged to be part of it. “There are special moments when they hold your hand or say thank you – and it’s a real thank you. I thank God I can do this job.”
“Sometimes it’s not about words – it’s just being there for them”
Does it take a special kind of person to do this job? “You have to care. That’s the most important thing. But you also need to be sensitive and intuitive – and a good communicator, because we spend a lot of time talking to patients.”
Martin feels especially privileged to be with a patient in their last moments. Some patients have no family and so a member of staff will sit with them as they pass away. “We talk to them and hold their hand so they know we’re there. And after they have passed, we go on caring for them, washing them, changing their nightgown and brushing their hair – it’s about giving them dignity and respect.”
“No matter who I work with, we’re all working to the same high standard”
Like many of the staff, Martin considers himself lucky to work at the Hospice. He really values being part of a team where everyone is dedicated to delivering high quality care. “We’re not miracle workers. But we treat each patient as an individual and give them great care tailored to their needs.”
Martin says he and his colleagues are well supported and trained for the job they do. “All healthcare assistants are mentored for the first three months and we all take a qualification to prove we have met the standard that’s expected. I’m a mentor myself and it’s really rewarding to help someone else on their journey to becoming an outstanding carer.”
Heather Phillips – Nurse
“There’s always something positive in every day”
Heather has spent most of her nursing career in palliative care. Why? “I like the fact that you have a relationship with your patients and you’re with them to the end.” Today, we’re lucky enough to have her working as a bank staff nurse in our inpatient unit. She loves her job, because she knows that she’s making a difference every single day.
“We all have the same goal – very good care”
One of the things Heather really enjoys is having the time and resources to care for the patient and their family. Much of her time on the IPU is spent helping to relieve and manage symptoms. Sometimes getting things under control can take a while, but it’s so satisfying when she succeeds in making a patient comfortable again.
Heather also works in the day hospice. “The patients love coming. They see their friends and it’s a really happy, positive atmosphere.”
“We look out for each other”
Heather really values being part of a team who care about and support each other. “It’s very friendly here,” she says, “and we’re really well supported with regular supervision and what we call ‘reflection’ sessions to talk things through. That’s so important in this job.”
But it’s not all about work. The Hospice is also a very sociable place where strong friendships are made. Staff from all departments enjoy getting together for quiz nights and the community choir. We also support staff by offering flexible, family-friendly working hours – which, as a busy mum, Heather really appreciates.
Care that goes beyond nursing
Our staff always go the extra mile. And Heather is no different. Last Valentine’s Day, one of her elderly patients on the ward mentioned that he was sorry he wouldn’t be able to give his neighbour a card as he normally did. Heather helped him buy a card from the Hospice shop and delivered it to the lady on her way home from work. Like much of what we do, it was a small thing but it meant so much.
Fiona Yard – Ward support volunteer
“I just wanted to give something back”
Fiona is a full time teacher. But every other Saturday you’ll find her serving tea, coffee and cake to patients on the inpatient unit of Princess Alice Hospice. Why does she choose to spend precious spare time working with us?
“My Grandad was supported by the Hospice. The nurses came to care for him at home and they were always very helpful to my family who took care of my Grandad. I just felt that I wanted to give something back to them.”
You just need to be calm and caring and have a good sense of humour
“Working on the In-Patient Unit is so different to my job and I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I wasn’t left on my own. I shadowed another lady for quite a while before doing the rounds on my own. Can anyone do it? I think you have to have initiative and be able to judge whether it’s ok to go into a room. You need to be calm and take everything in your stride. And it helps if you can make people laugh.”
Your visit can be the little pick-me-up that someone needs
Fiona has found working at the Hospice really rewarding. It’s a place where the smallest thing can make a big difference. So coming along with a cuppa and a friendly smile when someone’s feeling a bit down can really lift their mood. The patients appreciate the fact that, as a volunteer, she has chosen to be there because she cares.
And it’s not just the patients she helps. Often she’s welcome company for visitors when the patient is asleep or unresponsive. She even enjoys interacting with our canine visitors. “I love it when people bring dogs to visit – I’m a huge dog lover and it’s another way that I can connect with the patient and their visitors.”
Everyone can make a difference – so give it a go
“Working at the Hospice has definitely changed my perspective. I think it’s made me more grounded. I really enjoy the work and being part of the Hospice team – it’s like a little family. We support each other and if you ever feel the need to talk, someone will be there to listen.”
“If you have spare time and love working with people, you’ll find working at the Hospice really fulfilling. It’s great to go home knowing that you have lifted someone’s day with just a cup of tea, a slice of cake and a little chat.”
Twaisha Kapoor – Ward volunteer
Like most 17 year olds, Twaisha Kapoor, was hoping for a volunteering opportunity that would be useful and rewarding. In Princess Alice Hospice she found everything she was looking for – and more.
Twaisha is studying for her A-levels and hoping to study medicine. So she was keen to find out first-hand what it’s like to work in a medical environment. After her interview at the Hospice, she was delighted to be offered a role as a volunteer serving tea and coffee to patients on the inpatient unit.
“I like talking to people and making them feel better”
Twaisha really enjoys her time on the IPU. She’s always loved talking to people and volunteering at the Hospice has helped her develop her communication skills. Ward volunteers like Twaisha have the time to talk to patients and she never feels rushed or under pressure. And her age has been a definite plus, “Most patients are quite elderly and I think they like having someone young around.”
Twaisha’s time at the Hospice has made her even more certain that a career in medicine is for her. Inspired by our doctors and nurses, she’s thinking she might also like to specialise in palliative medicine.
“It definitely helped that I had first-hand experience in a care setting”
Competition for places at medical school is fierce. But Twaisha is lucky. She has just been offered a place in London. She believes that volunteering at the Hospice helped a lot. “Princess Alice Hospice is very well respected. The university trusted their opinion – if I was good enough for the Hospice, I was good enough for them.”
“You really feel you’re part of the team”
Doctors and nurses everywhere work in teams. And at the Hospice, Twaisha has seen for herself how important this is – and has loved being part of the team. “Right from the start, everyone was so welcoming. I felt accepted straight away,” she says, “And I got cards from everyone at Christmas!” Would she recommend volunteering at Princess Alice? Definitely. “I find it really rewarding to go there. You’re doing something nice for the community and it doesn’t take much effort.”
Jana Jeyakumar – Consultant
“You get more thank yous than in any other job”
When Jana first qualified as a doctor, she never imagined that one day she’d be working in palliative medicine. But working as a senior house officer in a hospital oncology unit, she found that one of the shining lights was the palliative care team.
“Palliative medicine is different. It’s all about the patient”
Now after eight years working in hospices (three and a half years at Princess Alice Hospice) Jana can’t imagine doing anything else. “I make a real difference here,“ she explains, “because you focus on what people and their families want, rather than the medical agenda. We have a different relationship with our patients and I find that very rewarding.”
Most of Jana’s day is spent outside the Hospice. After a morning meeting with colleagues to discuss her patients, she goes to see them in their homes or care homes. There she is often called upon to help control pain and other symptoms.
Often, she will be called upon to talk to patients about their condition and help them come to terms with their situation. “People can often feel very upset and even angry about what’s happening to them. One great thing about working in a hospice is that we have the luxury of time and resources, so we can give people really good care and support.”
“I’m very lucky to work here”
Another thing Jana really appreciates at Princess Alice Hospice is working in in a large team of highly skilled experts. It’s also a very caring and supportive environment, where people are generous with their time and knowledge. She has learnt a lot from her colleagues and now she is sharing her skills and experience with others.
“It’s not easy but it’s rewarding”
“The people we help are in a difficult, stressful situation – and so are their families. But that’s why the job is so rewarding,“ says Jana. “By helping control someone’s pain or enabling them to keep mobile, you make a huge difference to their quality of life. I know that every day I’m doing something useful – that’s why I love my job.”
Konstantina Chatziargyriou – Quality improvement manager
“We may be the first person a patient of relative speaks to”
The smooth running of our Hospice is down to our amazing clinical administration team. They ensure that our nurses, doctors, social workers and therapists get the support they need to do their jobs. They keep things moving, get things done and provide a vital link between all the different clinical departments at the Hospice.
And they don’t just support our staff – many of our clinical admin staff work directly with patients and families, acting as the first point of contact between them and the Hospice.
“We demonstrate the values of the Hospice in every conversation, letter or email”
What does it take to be an administrator in a Hospice? “You need great admin skills, of course,” says Konstantina. “But you must also be an excellent communicator and be able to show compassion and respect for everyone you come into contact with.”
“Some of the conversations we have can be difficult or upsetting. For example, my team often have to take recently bereaved people through the administrative processes that follow a death. You need to show an enormous amount of empathy and kindness to help people get through it.”
To ensure that there is always someone who can help, Konstantina’s team works on a ‘buddy system’. Individuals learn the skills to step in and help colleagues during busy periods and times of leave and illness.
“We’re lucky to have the chance to make a difficult time a little easier”
What makes working at Princess Alice unlike any other admin job? “The work we do really does make a difference. Whether they’re a doctor or a patient, we’re there to help people at a time when they need it.”
Like everyone else at the Hospice, our clinical admin staff will often go the extra mile. “Last New Year’s Eve, one of our clinical administrators on the inpatient unit was just getting ready to go home,“ Konstantina recalls, “when one of the patients had to be transferred urgently to a London hospital. The patient’s family needed to sort out accommodation in the city. The IPU administrator sat down and searched for hotels within their budget and near to the hospital, so they wouldn’t have to pay for taxis. She didn’t have to do that – it felt natural! People are often surprised at how much we can help them.”