Improving Nutrition … Improving Care Introducing Ward Volunteers at Patient Mealtimes

What was the issue you were addressing or working on?

The aims of the project were to enrich inpatients’ hospital experience and improve nutritional intake through having greater access to volunteer support at mealtimes; to provide support and encouragement at mealtimes for patients who require it; to enable greater partnership working between volunteers and healthcare professionals; and to develop the scope of patient contact volunteering activities available.

What you did?

Discussions outlining the project were held with senior charge nurses who had volunteered to participate in the project; they then disseminated information about the project to their ward staff.  Senior charge nurses and other staff were involved in designing the Volunteer Task Descriptions and undertaking risk assessments.  17 volunteers were recruited to 3 ward areas – stroke rehabilitation, continuing care of the elderly and gastroenterology.   The volunteers underwent general volunteer induction and training and further training specific to their ward environment.   The training was designed and delivered by a multidisciplinary team and included presentations, practical demonstrations and online modules covering areas such as food hygiene, nutritional care, barriers to eating and practical considerations in eating and drinking.

What were the outcomes - benefits or otherwise?

Feedback obtained from staff, patients and volunteers suggests that the project aims of enabling greater partnership working between volunteers and healthcare professions, and developing the scope of volunteering activities were met.   The aims of enriching patients’ hospital experience and improving nutritional intake were difficult to evidence and to demonstrate improvements, however feedback indicates that meals were served quicker and there were benefits of wider social interaction for patients.  Overall the feedback indicates that introduction of volunteers at patient mealtimes has been beneficial and all staff, patients and volunteers that provided feedback felt that it would be worthwhile rolling out further throughout the organisation.

A full report of the pilot project including detailed evaluation findings has been carried out with the support of Healthcare Improvement Scotland and is available on their website

Contacts - to find out more

Donna Murray – Project Manager, Volunteer Development

Claire Blackwood – Clinical Improvement Practitioner/Nutritional Care