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Volunteers on wards can help to ease nurse workload, survey finds

Nurses says patients without visitors take up more of their time – and volunteers could help

Nurses says patients without visitors take up more of their time – and volunteers could help


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Nurses say their workload is increased if patients do not have visitors, according to a new survey.

Findings from the poll, conducted by the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS), have prompted the organisation to call for hospitals to work with volunteer service providers to help patients access support.  

Of the 200 nurses surveyed from acute hospitals around the UK, 55% said they spend more time with patients who have no visitors, to help them understand their treatment.

The impact of patients having no visitors also resulted in:

  • 56% of nurses spending more time helping them remain active
  • 34% of nurses spending more time talking with them
  • 55% of nurses spending more time with them to ensure they are eating and drinking

Benefits of volunteer support

Half of the nurses surveyed said patient nutrition and hydration levels improved when volunteers helped at mealtimes.  

According to the RVS, volunteers can support patients by assisting patients with exercise and meals, as well as helping them to return home after discharge. 

Social interaction valued by patients

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary senior charge nurse Susan Webster said volunteers make a real difference to the ward she works on.

‘You can’t put a price on the value of that social interaction, especially for our older patients,’ she said.

RVS director of commissioned services Sam Ward said: ‘It is vital that hospitals work together with volunteer service providers to make sure that patients across the country are able to access this support.’

How to access help from volunteers

To introduce volunteers on a ward, Ms Ward suggested speaking to a senior charge nurse or checking if the hospital already has an existing volunteer service manager.

‘Volunteer partners, like ourselves, are always happy to help set up and create the volunteer service that can offer the most support to staff and patients,’ she said.


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