Glasgow hospital volunteer says singing to older patients is 'best part of her week'

Pat has volunteered at the hospital since 2016.
-Credit: (Image: NHSGGC)

A Glasgow volunteer has spent the past six years singing to older patients in hospital and offering them companionship.

Pat McCanley, 69, has been volunteering at Gartnavel General Hospital in Glasgow since 2016 and told how she never misses her shift if she can help it because of the joy it brings to both her and the patients.

She spends one morning a week on Ward 6A, one of the hospital’s wards for older people.

The retired primary school teacher chats, listens and reads with patients, providing friendship and companionship to those who may face multiple or lengthy stays in hospital.

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Patients also benefit from Pat’s beautiful singing voice, as she takes requests and encourages them to sing along to the songs they know or helps them with the words for those they don’t.

Hits covered during the sessions in the ward’s day room include Doris Day’s Que Sera, Sera, and Ae Fond Kiss.

Pat, who lives in Glasgow’s west end, said: “I love the time I spend with the patients here, you meet so many different people that you might not otherwise be introduced to and it’s fascinating and a privilege to hear their stories.

“The songs we sing might be requested, or songs that spark memories for some of the patients. It gets them out of their rooms for a couple of hours and gives them an opportunity to socialise.

“I really believe all songs you sing should make you feel something, and you can see that some patients have an association with certain songs.

“I’ve always enjoyed singing and I’ve always been in choirs since I was in school. For those who don’t want to sing, I will also spend time chatting and sharing memories and fun with them.”

Pat told how she struggled during the Covid-19 pandemic when restrictions meant she was unable to attend.

And she encouraged others to consider volunteering, with a range of opportunities available at many of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s sites.

She said: “To be a good volunteer on the wards you need to have a listening ear and an ability to start conversations, but there are lots of different roles you can do.

“During Covid I missed it so much - I missed the banter.

“If I’m unable to attend on my usual day I will always try to come in on an alternative day.

“I won’t miss it if I can help it - it’s the best part of my week.”

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Meanwhile, Allied Health Professional volunteer Archana Kannappan supports older patients at Gartnavel by encouraging participation in classes.

She supports physiotherapy led group exercise sessions, motivating patients to take part.

Mum of one Archana, 28, who lives in the city centre, also provides companionship, and will encourage individual patients on activities that have been directed by AHPs.

She said: “I love spending time with the patients on the ward, giving them motivation to do their group and individual exercises, but also chatting and providing companionship.

“We play word puzzles and games or just spend some time chatting about how their day is going.”

NHSGGC Volunteer Services Manager Natalie Bonner said: “The contribution volunteers make is immeasurable, and we are pleased that Volunteers’ Week gives us the opportunity to celebrate and say a huge thank you to them.

“Gartnavel General Hospital has a number of elderly medicine wards where some patients can have multiple and lengthy stays and our volunteers make a real difference to their time in hospital by providing non-clinical support.

“Pat is the most incredible person. She has a unique way of putting music and conversations together that resonate and help to spark special memories.

“It's heartwarming seeing patients’ faces light up when they hear Pat’s voice. She always puts the patient at the heart of everythings he does and is a ray of sunshine.

“Similarly, Archana spends time encouraging and motivating patients to participate in activities that will help improve their mobility, as well as providing companionship.

“This is hugely important to older patients and can help reduce the amount of time they spend in hospital and their safety and independence when returning home.”

In the past 12 months, volunteers have spent 45,605 hours supporting NHSGGC across its sites in a range of different roles.

Many sites are actively seeking to recruit volunteers.

More information about volunteering and current opportunities can be found on NHSGGC’s website.

If you would like to be involved as a volunteer, visit Become a Volunteer - NHSGGC.