Volunteers’ Week – From career to volunteer

Posted: 06/06/24

A number of our volunteers had a career in the NHS before starting their volunteering journey. Three of our volunteers have shared their stories below:


“Why on earth did I accept this job offer?” This was the question I asked myself after three days of working in my new job at St George’s Hospital, Morpeth (the 1850 version). Since completing my three years of study at the Sunderland School of Pharmacy (1960-63) I had worked as a junior pharmacist at the general hospitals in Newcastle (1963-66) and then as Deputy Chief Pharmacist at the South Shields General Hospitals (1966-74).

I had applied for the position of Chief Pharmacist at St George’s Hospital only half seriously after reading the most off-putting, but challenging, advert in the Pharmaceutical Journal of February 1974. A good number of NHS hospital pharmacists applied and six of us had been shortlisted. At the end of March, we turned up for interview at Northumberland Health Authority HQ, built on the huge campus of St George’s Hospital. After our tour of the very attractive grounds (including the football pitch, bowling-green and the working farm!) we explored the rather grim edifice of the Victorian hospital and its many outbuildings. The tour had to include the Pharmacy which was housed in a totally unsuitable building with the only desk jammed into the dispensary. I found out that (in my opinion) the department required at least twice the number of staff to operate the department that provided services for that hospital of 1,000 beds, let alone provide the service for the Northgate and St Mary’s hospitals, both with 600 beds!

So, after our interviews, after the six of us had waited together, “why on earth” did I say “Yes” when I was selected to be offered the job? I had prayed about this job interview and felt it would be right to accept the position if it was offered. Since 1st May 1974 which was my start date I have continued to know God’s guidance daily, for instance: when I was asked to provide services to all of the Northumberland Community Health Visitors, Nurses, Podiatrists and Dentists working from Health Centres and clinics; through the 10 years I had to wait for a new department (and more staff); when I started providing Public Health pharmaceutical services to Northumberland; through the time when I was offered, and eventually accepted, the job of District Pharmacist for the whole of Northumberland, even though I had not applied for it; when I became Trust Chief Pharmacist for the various NHS Trusts that have been responsible for providing mental health services to Northumberland and Tyneside.

I thank God for being allowed, also in 1974, to start a Monday evening session, which any patients or staff could attend, to discuss matters of faith. It was nearly thirty years before I retired from the Chief Pharmacist post to enable me to train for and volunteer as, the first Hospital Chaplain in Northumberland (February 2002).

I am now fully retired but volunteer for three hours a week at the Chapel of St George’s Park. I must conclude by emphasising how grateful I am to have been based at St George’s (Hospital and Park) all of these years and to be blessed so much through the many patients, staff and volunteers I have had the pleasure to get to know. A big thank you to everyone.


I started my working career as a shorthand typist. To relieve the boredom of office work, I wondered about a more creative career and decided that midwifery was the ultimate in creativity. In the early 70s, divorced women were not accepted as student nurses by prestigious London Hospitals so I trained at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading as a state registered nurse, qualifying in 1976. After a year as a staff nurse – ICU and running the A & E Department at night, I was off to study midwifery in Chertsey in Surrey.

From there, my best friend and I did a stint in Abu Dhabi before I went to Texas for a year. This was to fulfil a childhood ambition of mine to go to the States. On my return, I lived in Drury Lane, central London and worked for Moorfields Eye Hospital who had a branch and nurses’ home in High Holborn. Although my plan had been to work in Saudi, I met my husband and ended up on the Isle of Man for 5 years. Until my work permit came through, I was selling Avon door to door!

We returned to my hometown of Cambridge and I worked as both nurse and midwife while studying for a psychology degree with the Open University.

When economic necessity moved us back to my husband’s hometown of Morpeth in 1997, I started working for this Trust – then called Northgate and Prudhoe NHS Trust – and volunteering for the Chapel at St George’s. After retirement in 2019, it has been a privilege and an education to volunteer for chapel online and in person. After 50 years with the NHS, the only certainty is that change will happen and the people involved will be dedicated and warm-hearted. It has been an extremely rewarding journey.


I work as a Transcriptionist for CNTW have done for around 10 years in total. I’m also a Social Activities Volunteer at Hopewood Park.

I wanted to volunteer to gain more hands-on experience before I complete my psychology degree but also to be able to make a difference and help others.

The process of becoming a volunteer was really easy. I emailed Voluntary Services to enquire and I had a look at what voluntary posts were available before starting some training and I have now been volunteering for 6 months now

As a volunteer, I take part in lots of events that happen in the ward, some patients who have been discharged I got to know have given me some lovely feedback and said they will miss our chats. It made me feel valued to know I helped others.

I would absolutely recommend becoming a volunteer. It is one of the most rewarding things I have done, I love helping and being there for others and it makes me feel happy knowing I make a difference.

This opportunity is just what I needed, all staff are so kind, approachable and can’t do enough for you. Go for it