JUDITH Koop finds most people want an independent person to talk to, a friendly face, during her shifts in the emergency department.
The Ballarat Health Services’ volunteer team leader said her role was to listen, without judgement, and to help offer a calming presence in what was often a high-stress environment.
BHS needs more volunteers like Ms Koop with the Base Hospital emergency department experiencing increasing patient numbers week-on-week and volunteers were particularly needed to help on weekends.
“We're aware all the flashing lights and people can be overwhelming if you're not used to it. It can be nice to have that calming influence,” Ms Koop said. “Volunteers need to be kind and empathetic, compassionate but also someone who has got a bit of confidence in such a busy space...sometimes you have to take control and go with the flow of what’s needed.”
All the flashing lights can be overwhelming if you're not used to it. It can be nice to have that calming influence.Judith Koop, BHS volunteer
Ms Koop can often be found consoling mothers with young children being attended to in emergency, offering cups of tea or coffee, and even just making sure people can find their way around.
Volunteers are on duty in the emergency department 12 hours a day, seven days a week in three hour shifts. Ms Koop said the acute stress and uncertainty in the emergency department at all times of the day needed a diplomatic approach.
“You’re not doing anything medical and it’s always about not giving your opinion, whether that’s on treatment, staff or wait times,” Ms Koop said. “Most people just want reassurance staff have not forgotten them and are working their way to them. And, it’s about confidentiality, some people do like to talk and know what they say is safe.”
BHS volunteer services manager Sue Jakob said all volunteers undergo training and will be teamed with a buddy, like Ms Koop, for their first couple of shifts.
Volunteers generally do a minimum one shift a fortnight and sign up with a six-month commitment.
Ms Jakob said emergency department volunteers tended to like the flexibility of shifts, like might seek to volunteer outside full-time work, university students or mums who were busy juggling children through the week.
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