Our volunteer of the month in December is Brian Kiernan, from the Palliative Care Unit in Liverpool, one of the centers taking part in our volunteer study. In this interview he highlights the importance of providing comfort, support and empathy.
How did you start volunteering in end-of-life care?
I began as a palliative care volunteer when a friend put my name forward for the course, which I wasn't aware of, although I did partake in the course. Unknown to me on completing the palliative care course, this opened a new door in my life with a feeling that I never knew I had in me. It made me realize how important it was to me to be there for these people. Since being in palliative care, this has created a great impact in my life which have changed my values completely.
What does an end-of-life volunteer programme such as iLIVE provide for sick people and their relatives?
I believe being there and providing comfort, support and empathy, also including support for their families, could take the edge off their worrisome thoughts by creating conversation. I believe compassion is so important to bring to these people who are coming to the end of their life.
Can you describe an experience that made an impact on you while working with iLIVE?
I had a wonderful experience at one particular time while sitting with an extremely ill patient who was quite old and resting. Her eyes were closed, she looked so tired. I was just about to get up from my seat when her hand came over and reached out to me. ‘You are not going yet!’ she said. I then realized that she must have felt my presence. I sat for a while longer with her.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from volunteering in end-of-life care?
The most important lesson that I have learned whilst working in palliative care is that I came to realise that we all have this in common from the minute we are born. This kind of work makes me feel that life is so precious. I also believe that we are all responsible for each other. I would also like to think that if I were in the same situation, I would receive the same care and support that I have given to these people.
What message would you like to give to someone who is thinking about volunteering in end-of-life care?
My message to anyone who is thinking of being a volunteer in Palliative Care would be to put your best foot forward, be gentle in your approach, also in your manner. Give these people empathy, be there for them. It is also a very challenging type of work, this means it is really important to really care. Then you will achieve something that will give you a true sense of compassion in your life.