Spotlight on Butterfly Volunteers

Across the hospital we have over 30 volunteers who give their time to provide comfort to patients who are in their last days, weeks, or hours of their lives.  Our Butterfly Volunteers service was set up in 2019 in partnership with the Anne Robson Trust. The charity helps hospitals set up and run teams of bedside volunteers. Our Butterfly Volunteers are on site every day to provide support and companionship to patients at this difficult time.

Volunteers can spend their time chatting to patients, reading to them, or playing music. They can simply sit with patients who may have no relatives and let them know they’re not alone. Butterfly Volunteers also support relatives, from making them a cup of tea, letting them take a break, and signposting them to other services.

“The main qualities a Butterfly Volunteer needs is simply to be compassionate and caring. They don’t need to have a previous clinical background. They just need to be a supportive person, but they do need a bit of resilience” said Caroline Stevens, Butterfly Volunteer Co-ordinator.

That resilience is necessary to help deal with the emotional impact the role can have. Some patients may be lucid, but others may be unresponsive or be joined by relatives who are very upset. After every session the volunteers meet with Caroline or a member of the Chaplaincy team to have a de-brief so that they can talk about how they are feeling.

Caroline added: “Of course it can be highly emotional. Spending time with relatives is a joy because they share so much with us about their loved ones. It’s a real privilege. We try to make sure the time we’re there is a good experience for the patient and family.”

The volunteers’ range in ages from their 30s to their 70s and most commit to around 2-3 hours a week, although some come in fortnightly. They work closely with the Palliative Care team who give the volunteers training, and alongside the Chaplaincy who also give guidance. Some may have experience of being with a loved one at the end of their life, or they may have had a relative who’s received good end of life care and want to give something back to the hospital.

Some of our Butterfly Volunteers will be attending a special showcasing volunteers’ event on 7 June to mark the end of Volunteers’ Week. Volunteers from across the hospital will be on hand to meet members of the public who might be interested in volunteering opportunities. The event is taking place from 10am – 3pm outside the Benjamin Gooch Lecture Theatre, East Atrium, Level 1.

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