In August, we welcomed new volunteer Catherine Broomfield to Emergency Department volunteering. In the following interview, Catherine explains her unique journey from a career in aviation cabin crew to volunteering at Kingston Hospital.
What has your career been to date?
I started working in the city as a secretary on a trading floor for 10 years. I then moved to France where I started working as an English teacher and ended up working for a company of international wealth managers as a Sales Assistant and Translator. After 14 years in France, I returned to the UK and ventured into the world of air travel. Firstly, I worked as Cabin Crew for British Airways and then as an International Airline Concierge for Air New Zealand on the LA route. I then applied to Virgin Atlantic as I wanted to go to lots of different destinations. I have been working for Virgin as cabin crew since 2016.
How do you think your Virgin Atlantic experience has influenced your approach to volunteering?
When you work in customer service you can’t be someone who holds back. I’m used to dealing with difficult situations and I wanted to show my gratitude after surviving a very challenging 18 months during the pandemic. My way of doing that was to explore volunteering for the NHS. The advert for Emergency Department volunteering on NHS Jobs immediately attracted me as I had started working in the NHS during COVID, when the aviation industry ground to a halt. I trained to become a Blood Donor Carer with NHS Blood and Transplant, which enabled me to learn a new skill, do something useful and keep a roof over my head.
What is the most rewarding part of ED volunteering?
The ED environment suits me as I am someone who likes to keep busy and be in an ever-changing environment. You have to be very proactive, motivated and able to talk to anyone. I have found it really makes a difference as people want to talk and for you to listen, especially if they’ve been in the department for a while. Nowadays, we have technology at our fingertips to keep us entertained and constantly in touch with friends and family. However, many older people are not glued to their phones, if they have one, and just want someone to chat to. They really appreciate a cup of tea or coffee (where appropriate) or someone who can run and fetch them a newspaper to read. Volunteering also helps the medical staff as I can run around and help with the basics, such as popping to Boots to get a prescription, showing someone where to get a scan done, or simply dealing with the laundry.
Would you recommend ED volunteering to others?
Yes, definitely. I’ve already recommended it to a colleague at Virgin Atlantic. The past year has taught me the importance of getting out of the house and keeping busy – find what you enjoy and don’t be frightened! There are lots of ways to pay things back in society – volunteering at Kingston Hospital is the way that I wanted to do it.
To register your interest as an Emergency Department volunteer or find out more about the programme of volunteering offered at Kingston Hospital, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0208 934 3620.