Amongst the many impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic, Coleg Gwent’s Health and Care learners have found themselves unable to complete their work placements – an essential part of their training and experience. So, with placements currently on-hold and an increasing need for volunteers to join the befriending service in local hospitals, Coleg Gwent worked together with the Person-Centred Care Team at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB) to tackle both issues simultaneously.

With opportunities open to all Health and Care learners to volunteer with the Person-Centred Care Team, Coleg Gwent’s students have been able to gain valuable experience in care settings during the pandemic. At a time when visiting family and friends in hospital is restricted to reduce the spread of infection, loneliness is a serious concern for the Person-Centred Care Team. But volunteers working on the wards as part of the befriending service has helped to combat this through the use of digital technology.

So far, 25 Health and Care learners from Coleg Gwent have volunteered as part of the scheme. They’ve not only volunteered on wards across ABUHB in Gwent, but in all areas of health and care. Volunteering with the Person-Centred Care Team involves engaging, talking and interacting with patients, especially the vulnerable and elderly, while using digital devices to keep them connected with their loved ones. And with National Intergenerational Week upon us (8-14th March), Coleg Gwent and the Person-Centred Care Team believe that opportunities for generations to connect like this will become even more important as we emerge from the current pandemic.

We Are Voice: Student volunteers socially distancedStudent volunteers socially distanced

Coleg Gwent Health and Care learner, Elena Hall, explained: “At 17, it’s really hard to find an opportunity where I can give back to the community. But when I saw the Volunteering position with the Person-Centred Care Team I knew it interested me. The training sessions were well executed, especially due to being remote, and as soon as I met the team I felt comfortable. This position is really awarding and being part of it has been really eye opening! I’ve felt comfortable throughout the whole process and look forward to every shift knowing it’s making a difference!”

This volunteering has been a great experience that has allowed Coleg Gwent learners to make a difference to the people they’re working with, while gaining skills and competencies that are required for their course. They’ve had an opportunity to develop and practice communication skills, empathy and listening skills, as well as receiving training in PPE, infection control, confidentiality, and dignity and respect. And importantly, they’ve learnt to empower patients using digital technology to connect them with their family and friends.

Harriett Saunders, Health and Care learner at Coleg Gwent, has found that: “Since starting volunteering, the Person-Centred Care Team have been absolutely amazing and welcoming. They make sure that I’m comfortable with how much I interact with patients and ensure that I’m not left alone with a patient until I’m confident in doing so. The experience has already allowed me to gain valuable insight into a hospital setting, but also how patients are struggling with current circumstances and hopefully how volunteers like myself can impact a patient’s day. It’s a wonderful experience and I’m enjoying every minute of it.”

The volunteering scheme has been a fantastic success already, demonstrating how important it is for a further education college like Coleg Gwent to collaborate with local employers like Aneurin Bevan University Health Board. In fact, it has been such a success for both the college learners and the Person-Centred Care Team that they’re now exploring a continuing partnership for placements for Health and Care students after lockdown too.

We Are Voice: Student volunteer using technology with a patient on the wardStudent volunteer using technology with a patient on the ward

Gino Parisi, Person-Centred Care and Partnerships Manager, said: “I’m delighted that through this partnership with Coleg Gwent, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board is able to support students to gain invaluable skills that will enhance their learning, and at the same time support us in delivering care and improving the wellbeing of our patients. These students are potentially our future workforce and we want to offer them as much support as we can.”

Allison Werner, Employer Engagement Advisor for the Faculty of Care and Community Studies added: "It’s been great working with the Person-Centred Care team in ABUHB to pull together this student volunteer program in such challenging times. It has given our students an opportunity to enhance their learning and an insight into potential future careers with ABUHB."

Coleg Gwent is seeing an ever-growing demand for courses in Health and Social Care. So, if this is a career you could see yourself in, join their next virtual open event on 20th March 2021 to find out more or apply today.