Janaki’s volunteering experience

Twenty-year-old Janaki started volunteering at the Royal Free Hospital in 2018 when she was in sixth form. Although she already knew she wanted to study medicine, the experience of caring for patients gave her even more motivation.

“At the start I would shy away from ward duties, and I tended to help in the kitchen because I was nervous about talking to older patients. But over time I became more confident as I realised that patients with dementia could be anxious or upset and I could help them.

“There’s one particular patient I recall. I was visiting them as a dementia companion and they revealed to me that they felt confused and they were struggling to remember things. I realised that just being with them and talking to them was comforting and helped to make them feel safe. At the end of the conversation, they told me they felt lighter.

“Volunteering has really helped me to understand more about communicating with patients. I understand how important it is to develop a good bedside manner, and to adapt how you talk and interact with individuals depending on their needs.”

Janaki has been studying for a degree in biomedical sciences at Kings College London and will take up medicine at Keele University in autumn. She has continued to volunteer alongside her studies. She explains:

“It’s really good for my professional development. Learning about neurological conditions, I’ve already got some experience that I can relate to. It’s the combination of the medical learning and the more social human side.

“Volunteering has also given me the confidence to know when to involve other people in the ward team. If I have concerns about a patient, I feel confident in raising that. It’s important to realise what you can do and where you need to ask others to get involved.”

Like Janaki, if you are planning a career in the health sector or would like to give your time while gaining invaluable hospital experience, why not apply for our Young Volunteer’s summer programme which is now open for applications. It’s an opportunity to volunteer across various roles at our hospitals from Monday to Friday for two weeks.