When Claire Anderson qualified as a massage therapist in 2012, she bravely decided to volunteer at The J’s Hospice in Essex, without a clue of what it would be like. After an initial, informal meeting, she had an induction which included some careful questioning about her experience and motivations, to ensure that she would be suitable and able to cope.
'This when I knew that I would thrive within the palliative care setting," Claire explains. 'Being part of a friendly, caring and highly professional wellbeing team, doing something I love and whole heartedly believe in, gave me the encouragement and confidence to go ahead with my new career path.'
The skills Claire honed during her time as a volunteer ensured that she would be able to relate to her patients no matter what the situation or scenario.
'Learning to be gentler, pay more attention to client’s reactions and feedback are now common practice for me. Learning to adapt to each individual patient has been the most challenging, yet most rewarding, knowing that whatever the circumstances, something can always be done to help. The feedback at the times of treatment, a text the following day/week to say how well they’ve slept, that they’ve felt calmer and increased their ability to cope with demanding, life changing situations, is more than enough reward and spurs me on to provide more patients with care and compassion by using Complementary Therapies.
'I feel privileged to be able to go to people’s homes, often at a time of great uncertainty, stress and anxiety, yet be welcomed and able to help them ‘switch off’, if only for a short period of relief. This sometimes is all that is needed - along with a listening ear - to enable them, once feeling calmer, to have confidence in themselves and their own ability to cope.'
Claire found her confidence growing with the opportunity to work alongside experienced Hospice staff as well as other volunteers. She now feels equipped to take on any patient with the most challenging needs.
'The Hospice is a wonderful place and all the patients I have come in contact with are so grateful, relieved and thankful for any treatments that can be offered. Volunteering has enabled me to gain confidence in my abilities, with the help of all the staff and other volunteers, there is always a listening ear, ready and willing, for any concerns or troubles you may come across. Volunteers aren’t perfect, but interaction with caring, yet imperfect people - those with whom you feel completely safe to laugh, cry and discuss sometimes difficult situations with - are exactly what is needed.
'When asked what I do, I proudly say "Volunteer at my local hospice" to which most people say "I don’t know how you do that, working with the dying", yet the hospice is far from that ....living is the whole ethos of the hospice....working, helping and volunteering within such a caring, supportive setting makes everyone’s lives - including mine - that little bit better.'
Volunteers are the lifeblood of any local charity – if you feel that you have skills that could help young adult patients of The J's or simply office-based skills and a few hours per week that could support the hospice fundraising team, please contact Annie Gibbons by email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01245 475474, ext 3121.
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