As Volunteers Week draws to a close, we want to share another blog written by Rachelle, one of our volunteers. Today, we are sharing Rachelle’s experience talking to Steve Wood, a Healthwatch Essex Ambassador, who discussed his background and volunteering with us.
This was my second and final interview with another member of Healthwatch Essex (HWE), Steve, who is an ambassador for the charity. Steve retired a year ago after an extensive career within the NHS and as a teacher. He came from a background as a mental health nurse who moved into teaching as a university lecturer, focusing on dementia and geriatric care. His long career within the NHS even saw him work with the dementia team from Colchester Hospital.
After hearing about his deeply interesting background I decided to begin with my first question. ‘Why do you volunteer with HWE?’ I asked. His links with HWE began much earlier than I had anticipated with him commenting on how he was in touch with HWE over time through their website. Steve himself centred around the idea of a personalised approach; whether that be in Healthwatch Essex or in his own career as a nurse. By seeing this personal story approach in HWE, where users and patients’ stories were heard, he began to become more involved. Especially over the last few months where he helped develop staff and aid the Essex Fellas’ Forum.
From this, I followed by asking him if he felt he was making a difference and why. Steve’s answers divulged a little bit more about his personality. Throughout his life, Steve had attended different groups and had always been interested in the patient experience. Through his work in HWE he was able to take an active role in raising projects for middle aged people. His most recent project involved hearing health proposals and then commenting on them. By listening to Steve talk about his background and his responses to my questions, it was clear how his career had influenced his outlook on healthcare. Steve clearly cares about the patient experience and every question I would ask him reflected that.
‘Do you feel you’ve personally benefitted from volunteering at HWE?’ was my third question for him. ‘Yes!’ was his clear answer. He exclaimed that he had been offered so many opportunities that he couldn’t take on any more. He liked having something to do, and he not only enjoyed how he was able to be active within HWE, but also how the work gave good structure to his life. This question then followed on nicely to my fourth one where I asked what the best thing about volunteering for HWE was. Similar to my first interview with Joe, Steve also commented on how he benefitted from the supportive team. Despite only having been in the office 2 to 3 times, like he said, he still felt the team was welcoming and inclusive.
To conclude my interview, I asked, ‘why do you believe in what HWE do?’ His answer, reflecting what I thought I knew of Steve from this short interview, is that how HWE operated lined up with his personal beliefs. His principles, which included being interested in the patient journey, inclusivity and supporting marginalised groups not otherwise supported in local projects, were all represented in the way he himself and others were treated.
From my whistle stop interview, I could see that Steve was a knowledgeable and caring individual. His core belief of understanding the patient experience meant that he would always put his most into every project he did.