UL Hospitals group looking for volunteer patient ambassadors

Pictured at the Critical Care Block in UHL were Maria Keogh, Niamh Hogan, Catherine Hand and John Stephenson, Patient Advocacy and Liaison Service, UHL

WHETHER people are attending as patients, visiting loved ones,  or needing to ask for help or make a compliant, a big hospital can be a complicated place to navigate.

Which is why the Patient Advocacy Liaison Service (PALS) of UL Hospitals Group is looking for volunteers to join their teams at University Hospital Limerick and, for the first time, Croom Orthopaedic Hospital, to welcome patients and visitors, assisting with way-finding and general queries, and helping people to give feedback on their experience of hospital service.

As hospital ambassadors, PALS volunteers are an important element of UL Hospitals Group’s efforts to improve care standards and the overall patient experience in our hospitals.

The volunteers, dressed in distinctive red jackets with an embroidered gold logo, have multiple roles, including giving directions and accompanying patients to appointments, providing information for patients and visitors, and gathering patient feedback.

The service wants hear from people who are available to volunteer either in UHL or Croom Orthopaedic Hospital for a minimum of three daytime hours per week, Monday to Friday.

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Liz O’Leary, PALS Manager at UHL, emphasised that anyone over 18 can volunteer for PALS.

“To volunteer, you must be friendly and caring in your approach to meeting people, and supportive of the ethos and aims of UL Hospitals Group. Our volunteers come from a wide range of backgrounds. You don’t need qualifications. Any support will be provided as needed.”

Brian Kelly, a retired local authority official who has been a PALS volunteer at UHL since 2007, said he has found the role “hugely rewarding” for himself and for the people he assists in the hospital.

“I love PALS,” Brian says. “It gives me a purpose, and that’s important to me. When people come to the hospital, they know the building but often don’t know where to go. The important thing is to show people courtesy and respect, offer to help, speak with them as you’re walking, and bring them where they have to go.”

Ms Barry says the experience of Brian, who applied to volunteer after retiring from work, is typical of many people who sign up for a variety of reasons, from a specific interest in healthcare to a general wish to use free time to do something positive to their local community.

“The volunteers’ presence in our hospitals was greatly missed during the pandemic, and we’re very happy to be in a position to make this call-out for more volunteers to join us. Volunteers are needed now more than ever before, both at UHL, the biggest hospital in the region, and now at Croom, which is currently going through a period of expansion,” she said.

Anyone interested in volunteering for PALS should send an email outlining their details and available hours to UHLPals@hse.ie