Talk us through your society. What do you do and what are your aims?
Our society has been around for probably around 15 years now! Our main aim is to teach life-saving skills to university students such as what to do when someone is unconscious, not breathing or choking. Over the years we have also provided some informal first aid training to over 150 sports society committee members and many other societies such as the Teddy Bear Hospital Society. Some people who join our society go on to complete a course with St John Ambulance to become volunteers who provide medical cover at a range of events such as Varsity at Headingley Stadium, Manchester Pride and London Marathon.
Why do you volunteer?
I joined the society in 2016 mainly to learn life-saving skills, but within months I knew I wanted to take it further and put these skills into practice! I completed my training to become a St John Ambulance volunteer shortly after that. Personally, I volunteer because I want to make a difference to my community and provide care for people during their most vulnerable times. It really compliments my medical degree in terms of developing my communication and teamworking skills, but it’s not just for people of a medical background – lots of my student volunteer friends are studying non-medical degrees too!
What do you enjoy about volunteering with your society?
We are a bunch of like-minded people who can have a really good laugh with some wacky and challenging training scenarios (for example, when we had a simulated train derailment in the Business School…), usually followed by a few pints in The Library pub afterwards! It’s such a friendly society and I’m not the only one who’s made pals for life. When you’re volunteering at events, sometimes you get really poorly patients which can be emotional and stressful but it’s so good to get through it with your friends by your side. I really enjoy the opportunities to go to festivals where we camp together and get to see bits of the festival for free when we aren’t on shift! But I also love the weekly training sessions – it’s not the same virtually but our face-to-face training was a really good laugh and we learnt a lot of skills!
What have you gained from volunteering?
It’s not all about learning the life-saving skills! Effective communication is the absolute key to providing good care for any unwell patient, and this is something I have definitely developed over the years. In first year I was so shy, but now I am comfortable talking to anyone and everyone. I don’t know how it happened but I think it comes with time. I’ve also had tonnes of experiences with working in teams, which is easier said than done when people can be stressed out! These are skills for life but definitely skills relevant to my future career, I think they will stand me in good stead!
How has COVID affected your volunteering?
When the pandemic began in March, St John Ambulance joined the frontline to support the NHS. All of our weekly face-to-face training was cancelled and everything had to go virtual, but we made it work. Many of our volunteers were on standby to be deployed to the Nightingales, with some being asked to go as far as Birmingham. It’s safe to say we were all terrified that we would be working in a high-risk environment with patients who were very unwell and maybe even dying without their families for comfort. Lots of our volunteers were deployed to Emergency Departments across the country to help relieve the burden there. A handful of our volunteers are ambulance crew, so they were able to provide emergency ambulances to help organisations such as Yorkshire Ambulance Service and East Midlands Ambulance Service, with the aim to reduce wait times. Everyone played their part and it was great to see.