COVID-19 diary with Delan Hadad: Hospital Volunteering During the Pandemic

Coming towards the end of my COVID-19 diary series, this post is by Delan Hadad,  fourth year dental student at the University of Birmingham...

Delan, BDS4 student at the University of Birmingham

My name is Delan Hadad, a current BDS4 student from Sheffield studying at the University of Birmingham. I’d like to share my volunteering experience at Birmingham City Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic; a very eye-opening, rewarding and engaging involvement that I will never forget.

Searching online for hospital volunteering opportunities, I came across the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust looking for “2020 Response Volunteers”. After some online forms to fill out and a phone interview, I started there within a couple of weeks! I met other volunteers from a variety of backgrounds - students, teachers, retail workers, all with the same willingness to help. 

I was stationed at the hospital’s Eye Centre, nowhere near any COVID-19 wards to my surprise. However, it soon became clear to me that this was because the effects of the disease had indirectly affected all parts of the hospital. Lots of areas were understaffed due to reduced building capacities and several being off sick or self-isolating. This was coupled with more staff needing to be available to be stationed at entrances to maintain one-way flow of patients, and screening patients upon entry to the hospital, amongst other tasks. Self-check-in screens were disabled so all patients checking in flooded to the reception, putting extra pressure on them, so volunteers would help with admin behind the desk to reduce the load that the receptionists were under. They were therefore stretched, but our role as volunteers helped aiding and easing the pressure off staff by acting as temporary NHS staff members.

Furthermore, many of the patients being seen at the Eye Centre are elderly, can often be hard of hearing and of course are at greatest risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus. Their safety to us was paramount, with many having no choice but to come to their appointments despite their greater vulnerability - many needed regular eye injections which they couldn’t administer themselves. Many patients are often anxious upon entering the hospital due to obvious reasons, so we were there to help calm and reassure them. 

As the pandemic evolved and cases increased, the hospital evolved too. An established one way walking and waiting traffic system was introduced for patients, transparent shields at the reception desks were placed to protect staff and screening questions were asked at the door instead of at the reception desk. The management team consulted us as volunteers and together we helped implement them to make the hospital a safer place for staff and patients. This was even more important when lock down measures started to ease. More clinics began to open again and therefore there were lots more patients visiting the hospital. We continued to apply our safety measures to reduce the risk of infection spread to keep everyone in the building as safe as possible.

Volunteering in a hospital really helps you fully appreciate and understand the gravity of the pandemic, and also really respect the hard work of our NHS workers. From the doctors to the receptionists to the cleaning staff, each day they all risk their lives by working in the hospital to make sure none of us are without healthcare. If you are healthy and able, I would strongly encourage those who want to help the NHS during these times to look for volunteering opportunities like the one I had. Even if it's a few hours a week, I promise your help will be greatly appreciated - for many of us it’s the least we can do for our NHS heroes.

Many thanks for everyone's COVID-19 diary entries during the past few months!

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