In my last blog I said goodbye to a good friend and colleague, Laura, who left us to take on the huge role of becoming a foster parent. She is doing well, and is grateful to those who commented and offered her some advice, but says that sleep is a thing of the past! However, she is enjoying this new role, and I know will excel at it.
Happily, in this blog I am able to welcome a not-so-new member of staff to our little helpline team. Sarah (pictured) worked for us on a 12 month contract a year ago, and has now successfully applied for the job as helpline co-ordinator, and joined our team earlier this month. It will take her a while to get going, so you may not speak to her on the helpline just yet, or if you do she may need some support from one of her colleagues, but I know she will pick the job up quickly and be up and running in no time.
In addition to our work on the helpline, we all have plenty of other responsibilities, and one of the areas that Sarah will be responsible for is the matching of volunteer calls, so I thought that this would be a good opportunity to tell you a bit about this process, what the volunteers are able to offer and how grateful we are to them.
We get requests for volunteer calls for all sorts of reasons, but probably the most common reason is that someone is starting on a new medication (new to them at least!) and wants to speak to someone that is already on this drug about their experiences. This is very important, as a lot of the information available on the drugs can give you a pretty negative view of them, and often reads as a list of what can go wrong. After reading a long and scary list of potential side-effects it can be hard to remember why you are going to be taking this drug, and to focus on the good that it can do for you. Speaking to a volunteer, who is on the drug, and probably had the same anxieties as you can be really helpful.
Other topics that sometimes come up include talking to someone about a surgical procedure that they have had done, talking to someone that has had the condition for a while, when you are newly diagnosed, and general coping strategies.
We always try to match people with the most suitable volunteer for their query. This will often involve matching you with someone of a similar age, though depending on the nature of the query, we may have 20 volunteers to choose from, or we may just have 1!
Our wonderful telephone support volunteer will then give up some of their free time to talk to you about their experiences, and to listen to your concerns, and offer you the wisdom of their experiences. As is the case with our helpline staff, these volunteers are not medically trained (except incidentally), but can offer you support and the valuable experience of being able to talk to someone that has had personal experience in the area that you wish to talk about. They do an amazing job, as anyone that has had a volunteer call will no doubt testify to!
Look forward to speaking to you on the next blog!
Helpline & Information Co-ordinator