Student volunteers supporting the inpatient breakfast group: A mixed methods evaluation

Mrs Erin O’Shanassy1, Mrs Melissa Mew1, Mr Luke Moresi2, Mr Terence Yau2, Dr Danielle Hitch1,2

1Barwon Health, North Geelong, Australia, 2Deakin University, Geelong, Australia

Aim: The Breakfast Group (BFG) provides a valuable opportunity for occupational therapy (OT) staff to assist subacute inpatients regain independent living skills.  However setup, pack up and portering impacts on staff time and potentially service efficiency.  This pilot study aimed to evaluate the use of OT student volunteers to assist with these BFG tasks in a 100 bed facility that runs 12 BFGs per week across 3 wings.

Method: A mixed methods approach was adopted.  Staff time, group duration, patient numbers and waiting list data were analysed using descriptive statistics to compare a convenience sample of BFGs run with and without volunteers. Thematic analysis of anonymous qualitative feedback gained from surveying the perspectives of OTs, allied health assistants, volunteers and patients was completed.

Result: Results from 109 BFGs indicated a slight decrease in group duration and total time spent by staff in the BFG when volunteers were present, though this was not clinically (≤6mins) or statistically (p<0.05) significant. There was no significant difference in patient numbers or waitlists. Survey results indicated improved staff (n=11) and patient (n=29) satisfaction when volunteers assisted with BFG, with improved social atmosphere and more focus on quality of interventions. Volunteers (n=4) valued gaining exposure to a healthcare setting, practicing communication skills and providing meaningful assistance to staff.

Significance of findings to Allied Health: OT Student volunteers assisting with BFGs may not make a quantifiable difference to service efficiency; however their presence was perceived positively by staff, volunteers and patients and improved the quality of this therapeutic experience.