We caught up with Chris Marsh (pictured below), one of our Trust’s Junior Doctors – who recently introduced this new initiative. Here, he explains the idea.
‘Having worked on Maple Ward, which is a ward with predominantly older aged patients, I was struck by the often significant cognitive decline in patients who spend a long time on wards awaiting a ‘social package of care’. There can often be little stimulation or sufficient social interaction for them.
So the idea came about to bring those working at the hospital – non clinical staff – into contact with these patients, and provide older patients with some further social interaction and communication. The plan is for non-clinical staff to ‘volunteer’ half an hour of their time a week – usually part of a lunch hour so that it doesn’t impact on work hours, and spend time talking with some of our patients on the wards. There are two real aims of this programme. Firstly, to re-engage patients socially, in order to revive their ‘cognitive energy’. The second is for the benefit of staff. We want to help break down any divide between non-clinical and clinical staff by providing an opportunity for staff to spend time on the wards and have an impact on the holistic care of our patients.’
The programme was successfully launched with a pilot phase of 10 volunteer members of staff rolled out in February 2016.
The ‘Adopt a Grandparent’ programme is now going live, Chris is hoping that non-clinical staff will come forward and volunteer half an hour a week.
Full training is provided so that those joining feel confident, and new volunteers will receive a ‘buddy’ who has been through the pilot scheme and is well experienced. Each group of 10 volunteers will be assigned their own ward so they and the staff become familiar with each other, and to also facilitate follow up with patients they have seen previously should they still be in hospital.
Speaking of the initial pilot scheme, a staff volunteer added, ‘I have to admit, I was a tiny bit nervous going to the ward for the first time to participate in the initiative. However I had a lovely chat with an elderly gentleman, and found out a lot about his life. It was lovely to see how he changed from a patient lying in a bed, to the person he truly is, as we engaged in conversation. I left the ward wishing I could have stayed longer and can’t wait to go back again. I think this may become addictive and the highlight of my weeks!’