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Volunteers and their "buddies" give Tŷ Olwen patients more companionship and conversation

Image shows three women standing in a front of a banner

People receiving end-of-life care in Tŷ Olwen can call on an even wider circle of support following the expansion of a volunteer service.

Newly-trained volunteers are teaming up with experienced “buddies” to deliver more companionship and conversation to patients who may need it most.

Image shows a man and two women standing in front of a sign Volunteers provide a listening ear and conversation to patients who have life-limiting illnesses, are in the last months of life or may have no or few visitors. They also give family and friends a chance to take a break during visiting, knowing one of the volunteers can keep their loved one company.

Following on from the introduction of its first round of volunteers, the service has now welcomed its second group after undergoing specialist training.

The expansion of Tŷ Olwen’s volunteer programme, known as Person i Mi – Person for Me, means patients have support throughout two shifts, six days a week.

PICTURED: Volunteers Alyson Loring and Chinch Gryniewicz with Helen Martin (right), Tŷ Olwen Hospice volunteer support manager.

The volunteers work alongside staff to deliver one-to-one support to patients who may wish to share their stories, worries and concerns.

The new batch of volunteers have benefited from shadowing their more experienced colleagues – known as buddies - who came through the first volunteer group.

Alyson Loring is among the new cohort of ten volunteers who have received training.

Alyson, 63, previously worked at Swansea Prison as a probation officer before training her predecessors.

Now retired, she sees the volunteer role as a perfect opportunity to utilise her time by helping those who need it most.

Alyson said: “The patients vary day-to-day in terms of what they need, so it’s a learning experience.

“Training was really good. It was two full days in the classroom in addition to online training. The learning doesn’t stop there though.

“Having a buddy has been so valuable. It’s given me an opportunity to shadow more experienced volunteers in this role and see how and when they interact with patients.

“I am now starting to have more meaningful conversations with the patients here and understand what each requires.

“It’s a really rewarding role, and I’m just happy to be able to give patients my time and attention.”

Chinch Gryniewicz is one of the buddies who offer extra insight into the role for the new volunteers.

He feels the extra support given to the new volunteers can make the role even more valuable for patients.

Chinch said: “Of course, being in the first group of volunteers we didn’t have anyone to buddy up with, so it was a slightly different experience for us. But the second generation of volunteers can shadow us and it has benefited us all.

“The role can be quite tough as people are in a delicate and emotional position, but it is very rewarding because you are not only helping patients but the staff in Tŷ Olwen too.

Image shows a man and a woman talking “Each shift you find yourself in a delicate position, but compassion, care and conversations really help patients. Some days a patient may not want to have a chat, but more often than not they do.

“By working together, the staff and volunteers know who would like to chat and who prefers to have some time to themselves.”

PICTURED: Chinch and Alyson are among the volunteers at Tŷ Olwen.

The impact of the Person I Mi service has not gone unnoticed, having won the Volunteer of the Year category at Swansea Bay University Health Board’s Living Our Values Awards last year.

It continues to go from strength to strength, and now has 17 volunteers performing the role.

Helen Martin, Tŷ Olwen Hospice volunteer support manager, said: “We wanted our new volunteers, for this second round of recruitment for the Person I Mi role, to have the most positive and supportive start possible and be ready to do this special but demanding role.

“We also recognised that there was only so much that could be learnt in the classroom, so we wanted to give them the opportunity to pair up with more experienced volunteers who had been doing the Person I Mi role on our inpatient unit for some time and had agreed to share their experience in an informal way and be our volunteer buddies.  

“After discussing the structure of the roles with the buddies and new volunteers, it’s clear that it’s been a positive move which ultimately helps our patients and staff.”

The volunteer scheme has also been warmly received by Tŷ Olwen staff, who are seeing the positive effects it has on patients and colleagues on a daily basis.

Dr Gwenllian Davies, consultant in palliative medicine and clinical lead, said: “As a clinical team we are delighted to have the support of our volunteers to provide additional support for our patients and families. We’re pleased that the service has been expanded.”

Karren Roberts, Tŷ Olwen ward manager, added: “We are all seeing the impact made by the Person I MI role on the wards. It receives excellent feedback from patients and carers, which highlights how positive and valued this supportive volunteer role is.

“This type of buddy support for our new volunteers has prepared them well to settle in to the role.”

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