Volunteer nurse at St Helena Hospice says role is about ‘doing what feels right’

Kirsty Beckwith, a volunteer nurse assistant at St Helena Hospice. Picture: ST HELENA HOSPICE

Kirsty Beckwith, a volunteer nurse assistant at St Helena Hospice. Picture: ST HELENA HOSPICE - Credit: Archant

In the final part of our series celebrating Hospice Care Week we meet Kirsty Beckwith, a volunteer nurse assistant at St Helena Hospice.

Although her decision to become a volunteer nurse assistant at St Helena Hospice surprised her family and friends, Kirsty Beckwith says she has never regretted it.

She explained: “The first day was a bit daunting, but I love it.

“You can see if people are a bit unsure of what is going on. I take them to one side and try to be kind to them, to reassure them. We get some training every few months but a lot of it is doing what feels right.”

Kirsty took on the work even though she had no previous link with the hospice.

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“My children were leaving home and I realised that because I had been bringing up my children I’d not really had a career. I thought I would start off with volunteering and 18 months later I am still here.

“I went on the internet and saw this role advertised and applied for it. What appealed to me was the fact that I was going to be helping people who really need help.

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“I’m also very sociable, I like talking, so coming in here and talking with people I feel like I am giving something. I’d had no personal connection with the hospice and had never done anything like this.

“Mainly I talk with family members, but occasionally with patients. For a while there were four ladies who were ‘a laugh’. They were lovely, and every time I came in we had some really good banter.

“When I come in I try and lift the mood, have a chat, make them a cup of tea. If they haven’t got any family members I will sit with them.

“With one lady who was in for a long time I would come in on a Friday evening and watch telly with her. I have fond memories of that time and hopefully she enjoyed herself too.

“A lot of people think it must be really sad, but I instantly say ‘no it’s not’. It’s not a sad place.

“You are there to make people happier. You want to make it as pleasant as possible. The garden always looks really beautiful, and just to be able to walk someone round when they haven’t got out for weeks and weeks is so nice.”

Kirsty has fond memories of the patients she has met.

“One lady was knitting hedgehogs and knitted hundreds of them for the hospice. She was a lovely lady and they were all sparkly and beautiful.

“On one occasion we had some girls come in to say goodbye to their grandmother and they were playing on the piano for half an hour. It was a lovely moment.

“It has its sombre moments but on the whole it’s a happy place to be and the food is amazing.”

Kirsty says the paid staff at the hospice all really appreciate the work done by volunteers.

“They know what each volunteer is happy to do and they are really appreciative of what we do. We’re doing what they can’t do.

“You need to have a general awareness. It’s like walking into your own home and thinking ‘what needs to be done?’.

“It’s what I expected. I did think it might be daunting dealing with people receiving end of life care, but it’s not.

“I get to meet people from all sorts of walks of life, a lot of really lovely people. I’ve bumped into some of them away from the hospice and they do remember you, which is nice.

“You do it for others but you do get something back yourself. A nice warm feeling, I suppose.”

Kirsty says she has benefited from her volunteering.

“My husband said that working at the hospice had helped me, and he was right. It’s been a massive help. It’s given me the confidence to go up to anyone and speak to them.

“I’d say to people just give it a go. If it’s not for you then you can stop, but they need us so badly as volunteers.

“It’s a happy place. There are so many other roles, like on reception, or in the kitchen you can do.”

To find out more about volunteering visit the hospice volunteer website – and remember often new volunteer roles are made if people have specific skills.

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