My experience: St John Ambulance volunteer at UHP

There are lots of people from different organisations who make up the extended #1BigTeam at University Hospitals Plymouth (UHP). Abby Williams is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), trainer and assessor who has been part of St John Ambulance for nearly three years. St John Ambulance volunteers have been helping out at UHP since July this year supporting the Emergency Department at Derriford Hospital and helping to transfer patients.

Abby Williams volunteering at UHP for St John Ambulance

“I joined St John Ambulance while I was at university studying to become a teacher. I love volunteering and being able to help people and I understand how important it is to know first aid. St John Ambulance does all of the above. Like most people at St John Ambulance I joined as a first aider and progressed through the roles to EMT, which means I have a wider scope of practices and can now crew ambulances through St John Ambulance. I also work with the training team, which brings my love of teaching and first aid together. Recently, along with a colleague, we’ve been busy training a new course to allow members to volunteer in hospital. This is where my experience at UHP comes in handy.

“Normally at this time of year, I would be offering first aid support at large events. Since lockdown these have obviously all been cancelled, which has been really odd. COVID-19 has meant that we have been able to support the NHS by going into hospitals, like Derriford, which has been an amazing experience. 

“When we are doing a shift at Derriford, we arrive and introduce ourselves to the Nurse in Charge, saying hello to everyone else on the way. Once they know we are there we have a look and see if there is anything we can do straight away such as any call bells going off. We are able to offer a huge range of skills such as observations, personal care, providing tea and coffee. We also support transfers to other parts of the hospital. One of the most important things we do is give time to the patients. The Emergency Department gets really busy and there is always loads to do. We are happy to spend time talking to the patients, which is wonderful. No two days are the same and this keeps us on our toes! 

“Outside of volunteering for St John Ambulance (most members of St John Ambulance are volunteers and hold full-time jobs) I am a primary school teacher and work for a local charity that helps special children. I like to keep busy, however, and during the summer holidays most of my time has been spent volunteering with St John Ambulance and supporting the NHS.

“The role has certainly changed over recent time, but it has allowed us a more diverse experience and I’ve learnt loads about medical terminology and been able to enhance my skills. It’s a change being stood in a hot Emergency Department rather than a field when it’s pouring down with rain! 

“The experience of working in the Emergency Department has been brilliant. I’ve learnt so much and have enjoyed every minute whether it be putting skills into practice or simply having a chat with a patient. The Emergency Department staff do an incredible job and have been so welcoming and made us feel at home. 

“The diversity of the role is certainly one of the best bits. I also love the fact that even when the Emergency Department is really busy, we are able to spend the time talking to patients, reassuring them and making their time in the Emergency Department that little bit better. 

“For me, as a teacher, school is starting in September so the time I am able to give will be reduced. I hope to be able to do a few shifts on the weekend. I’ll also continue to train our members to enable them to support the NHS in hospitals and ensure they are ready for events when they start again.”