What’s your volunteering role?

I started volunteering at Katharine House in 1994 after taking early retirement from teaching. I knew I wanted to do voluntary work and, just at that time, I saw an article in the local paper asking for volunteer receptionists at the hospice.

The reception is staffed 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Most receptionists opt for a regular four-hour shift once a fortnight. But, having spent my working life governed by timetables, I chose to be a reserve receptionist. This means that I try to be available not only to cover for regular receptionists on holiday, but also to come in at short notice if required. This gives me the flexibility I want but also means that over the years I have covered every shift. This, in turn, has helped me to appreciate the different aspects of the job at different times of the day and week throughout the year.

What skills have you gained from volunteering?

Answering the telephone and putting calls through to the correct person or department is obviously an important part of the job. But, as I was told at my initial interview, the receptionist is usually the first person new visitors meet. Some are business visitors, but many are either patients or visitors to patients. They may be anxious or nervous, so it’s essential to be calm, friendly and welcoming at all times, remembering that people who are stressed or grieving can react in different ways.

What would you say to a friend about volunteering here?

Katharine House is a wonderful place to work, and being a receptionist is especially rewarding. One doesn't need thanks for it, but there have been times when an anxious visitor has later commented that it was good to be welcomed with a smile and made to feel at ease. I have had an enormous amount of job satisfaction over the years.

There is sometimes sadness of course, but Katharine House is not a depressing place to work. The whole ethos of the hospice is to give care and support to all who need it. I have experienced this attitude in all departments and it is promoted by all staff and volunteers.

I hope that I can continue as a Katharine House receptionist for as long as I am able. It’s a great privilege.