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Recruiting student volunteers

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Blackburn and Darwen's Volunteer Co-ordinator Denise shares with us how she successfully recruited student volunteers to the project.

Background

After developing links with the local College, and in particular Health & Social Care tutors and lecturers, I found them very accommodating in promoting volunteering to their students. Subsequently, I have been invited to have a promotional stand at student events such as Freshers’ Fairs, Open Events and Volunteer Fairs.

Volunteering has a heightened profile in education as it addresses the need for students to develop skills for future employment prospects and enhance their knowledge for chosen careers. It enables students to develop personal attributes aligned to their career aspirations.

Many courses have units of work based learning requiring in excess of 100hrs volunteering and many courses pertaining to health care have experiential entry requirements. It’s for these reasons that many students are looking for volunteering opportunities within a health and social care setting.

The issues we faced

There are advantages and disadvantages in working with student volunteers:

Advantages 

  • Health and social care students have theoretical knowledge of working with older people in a care facility and have particular motivation to put theory into practice.
  • Students have the motivation to volunteer for at least 100hrs.
  • Health and social care students have a greater knowledge of what to expect from a residential care setting.
  • Students can be expert volunteers and bring special knowledge of elements of volunteering with older people, such as music therapy for dementia and counselling.
  • Student can be ambassadors for the project and further recruit from their class.

Disadvantages

  • Students can see their work based learning hours as a target and finish volunteering once this target is reached.
  • Younger students can lack emotional maturity and find residential care distressing.

The actions we took

Two mature social care degree students were recruited by referral from college and joined the Volunteering in Care Homes pilot project in April.

They were recruited and volunteered as a pair. The benefits of which proved to be:

  • Volunteering together, volunteers can help, support and reassure each other.
  • Volunteering in a pair enabled the volunteers to engage with more than one resident which reduces reliance and pressure on single volunteers.
  • Each volunteer can cover for the other during any times of sickness, holiday or absences, giving volunteers a break without letting down residents.
  • Volunteering in pairs develops and shares skills and knowledge.
  • Volunteering in pairs enables sharing of resources and transport.
  • It enables them to develop friendships and supportive relationships.
  • Volunteering in pairs and small groups increases resilience, commitment, motivation and thereby retention.

Introduction into the care home was by working with James, the activity instructor of Senior Fitness, where they are involved in encouraging and enabling residents to take part in a range of exercises.

This type of introduction to the care home aids the recruitment and selection process for both the volunteer and the project.

  • Taster sessions for new and prospective volunteers enable the Volunteer Co-ordinator to see how volunteers interact with older people.
  • James is friendly and supportive while being an excellent trainer and valuable role model for working practice with older people.
  • Taster sessions help new and prospective volunteers decide quickly if volunteering on the Volunteering in Care Home project is going to suit them.
  • Volunteers are able to meet many residents in an interactive and fun way.
  • Residents are happy and lively during James’ visits which makes a good first impression on them, and helps to create a positive association for volunteers.

This introductory process does however have limitations. The maximum number of volunteers at any one time is limited to six and the exercise sessions are morning sessions which aren’t suitable for all volunteers’ availability.

Becoming regular volunteers with James, the students worked closely with one particular resident who had limited speech and manual dexterity due to a stroke and spent a lot of time in her room.

Positive outcomes

Having observed the volunteers at work, James commented how well residents respond to the volunteers; how they seem a lot happier and are encouraged to engage more fully in activities.

Involving volunteers had enabled him to work with more residents and brings a different approach through gender and personality.

Over time, using knowledge and personal experience of one of the volunteers in particular, they used specific exercises and speech cards to significantly improve the resident’s speech, manual dexterity and mobility around the home.

It was incidental yet significant that one of the volunteers had previously had experience of a family member who had had a stroke, and so she brought knowledge and practical experience to help the resident regain confidence.

The fact that these activities took place over the summer months meant that several volunteers were available. Unfortunately, their availability diminished in September when they returned to their schools and colleges. 

Negative outcomes

It was disappointing that the students ceased to volunteer after they had completed the hours required to comply with the work based unit of their chosen course of study.

It was intended that the 1:1 volunteering would progress outside the armchair exercises activities but the care home was happier that it remained under the supervision of James of Senior Fitness.

Timing of the exercise sessions in the care home means this is a limiting factor for some volunteers, being scheduled Monday – Friday mornings. These sessions precluded some students, people who work, and people with children. 

Lessons learnt

Over time the volunteers developed good working relationships not only with Senior Fitness but with several of the residents.

Residents looked forward to exercise sessions and were visibly more energised and more cheerful.

Residents that James had failed to engage in exercise had been getting involved.

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Page last edited Aug 08, 2017

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