Annette Ward - Eastern Health

Video URL
Tue 4 July 2017
Audio description

It is a life and death place. Doesn't matter where we come from. Doesn't matter our creed, culture, colour, whatever our background is. We really have to be able to walk into a hospital expect that we'll be cared for.

I've managed for the last 21 or so years an architectural practice and I was a bit restless. I was a bit tired of being at the desk and I have a real passion for quality particularly in end-of-life situations. We focus a great deal on bringing our babies into the world well, and then almost in the blink of an eye be at the other end of life and I think that to be able to, to die well is very important.

“Hello John”

We often have a lot of elderly patients they come in and they are very frightened and confused. Often they suffer from dementia so they're completely at a loss as to where they are or what's happening.

“Well I might pop your teabag in for you. How would that be? Then it can be brewing while you're having your porridge.”

“I don't think I’ll eat all this.”

“I'll take the top off your marmalade because they're hard too.”

You become the anchor in at the moment of stress and it's the most amazing privilege and it offers just a little bit of comfort and that somebody is caring for them.

“I believe you've got a patient up here who needs a blanket and some trauma teddies?”

“Yes we do.”

I also do very simple little things like sometimes a trauma teddy for children who are restless and it's not unusual for me to give a trauma teddy to mum and dad because they're more anxious or distressed than the child they brought in. So I do that sort of thing just because I can and because it's simple and it's free.

So you really have to be able to roll with what's happening in the moment and in that sense it's always about supporting the staff.

It's very difficult sometimes at the end of a shift to let those people go and not know the outcome of their situation so you have to have a certain resilience and just be able to hope the outcome is the best for all of the members of that family and just trust them.

I find being a volunteer in the emergency department, despite the challenges, a tremendous place to be. You can totally move out of your comfort zone if that's what you want to do and move into an area perhaps that you've been passionate about.

You can get an insight into yourself and you can learn a great deal about other people so it broadens your outlook. It also keeps you fit and gives you a new focus and I certainly know that being a volunteer now for eight years, I've had an enormous amount of fun and you make new friends. You just get a whole new awareness of what's out there in the community for you to do and a great sense of satisfaction in making a contribution to the community in which you live.