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One small change: A career and life coach on how to make Ireland’s health system better

How we treat our most vulnerable is a measure of the health of our society

As our health system begins to return to normal activity levels following the Covid-19 pandemic, we would like to hear from doctors, nurses, paramedics, medical secretaries, hospital porters, canteen staff and others about one change they would like to see in our health system.

It can be something simple that annoys you, day in, day out, that is easily fixed, or it can be a small change in practice or attitude that would make life easier for everyone.

Aoife Cuffe

(Career and life coach)

"One small change that I would like to see in the healthcare system is volunteer panels of visitors managed by a co-ordinator in every hospital, care home and nursing home in Ireland. I really believe that how we treat our most vulnerable is a measure of the health of our society.

“I have heard that some hospitals have volunteers who visit patients, but I’m concerned that such volunteering might not be up and running again following the Covid-19 pandemic. My suggestion comes from experiences visiting my elderly mother in hospital and an elderly aunt during her three-month-long stay in hospital.

“A lot of the elderly patients are anxious, bored and lonely in hospital. My aunt told me that she watched the movements of a building crane working locally to keep her occupied and thought of the crane as her friend as she spent so much time watching it each day.

Small radio

"When my mother was in hospital, I gave a small radio to another elderly woman who missed listening to Joe Duffy each day. She cried with gratitude. There was no volunteer service in either hospital over the two to three years when I was visiting regularly. And when I asked about the idea of volunteers being used to support hard-pressed nurses and help patients feel more hopeful/engaged, I was told by the nurse in charge that they 'could not have people coming in, getting in the way'. I got the impression that there was zero interest. I was disappointed as I know that volunteers provide excellent support in many hospitals in the United States.

“Of course some patients won’t want visitors but those that do could be cheered enormously by a volunteer visitor, or somebody reading to them, or a group listen to a favourite radio programme, etc. The family of the woman who I gave the little radio lived a long way from the hospital and it simply was not possible for them to visit every day.”

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