More varied roles in store for volunteers at public hospitals

Ms Christina Chu says the chance to take on a fresh role, such as in play therapy, allows her to contribute to patient care in new ways. The veteran volunteer has served in a wide variety of roles over the years, ranging from helping out at health ev
Ms Christina Chu says the chance to take on a fresh role, such as in play therapy, allows her to contribute to patient care in new ways. The veteran volunteer has served in a wide variety of roles over the years, ranging from helping out at health events to befriending patients.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Volunteers are set to operate in more varied roles at public hospitals, with new opportunities coming up in several institutions.

Just last month, National University Hospital (NUH) started training volunteers to look out for patients' general safety and help with their personal care needs in the wards, said a spokesman. This includes ensuring they are comfortable and have their personal items within reach.

Similarly, Singapore General Hospital said it will look into new positions for volunteers. "Currently, we do not deploy volunteers to the wards to relieve staff of their duties," said senior manager of community relations Mumtaj Ibrahim.

"But plans are in the pipeline to explore the possibility of engaging volunteers to help with the planning and serving of meals."

Changi General Hospital (CGH) has said it is training volunteers "to play more active roles at the accident and emergency department, such as providing translation during history-taking at triage and consultation rooms".

The hospital, which has about 100 volunteers, is also exploring new programmes involving music and the arts, said a spokesman.

In addition, it is working with clinicians to scale up the frequency of play therapy, an initiative that started last year. Some patients may feel better when they get to engage in light-hearted recreational activities, such as playing games or musical instruments.

BENEFITS OF PLAY

In the afternoons, if patients don't have appointments - such as for an X-ray scan or physiotherapy - they would just be lying in bed. Now, they can occupy their minds and forget about their pain and worries for the moment. It could be helpful for their mental health.

MS CHRISTINA CHU, who has 18 years of volunteering at Changi General Hospital under her belt, on play therapy for patients.

The therapy is conducted three times a week, with about eight patients taking part each time. It is the job of volunteers to engage patients through play.

One of them, 65-year-old Christina Chu, is a veteran with 18 years of volunteering at CGH under her belt.

"In the afternoons, if patients don't have appointments - such as for an X-ray scan or physiotherapy - they would just be lying in bed," said the retired civil servant. "Now, they can occupy their minds and forget about their pain and worries for the moment. It could be helpful for their mental health."

The chance to take on a fresh role such as in play therapy allows her to contribute to patient care in new ways, Ms Chu said.

Over the years, she has served in a wide variety of roles, ranging from helping out at health events to befriending patients.

Meanwhile, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital plans to mobilise volunteers to support patients in the wards. They would, for instance, check if anyone needs translation help or does not have any visitors, The Sunday Times understands.

 

The hospitals stressed that volunteers do not handle tasks alone, but work closely with their staff.

 

For example, even as NUH trains volunteers to perform basic care, nurses remain responsible for the

patients while supervising the volunteers, said a spokesman.

"The volunteers are able only to assist the nurses to perform basic care with supervision," she added.

Ms Chu, who is married with two grown-up children, said volunteers in the wards can contribute in other subtle ways. One is by giving feedback - either their own or from patients - to help the hospital improve patient care.

"We write it down and the staff will follow up," she said.

Poon Chian Hui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 20, 2017, with the headline 'More varied roles in store for volunteers at public hospitals'. Print Edition | Subscribe