Volunteering at Ashgate Hospice has inspired bank worker James Wilcockson to make a dramatic career change.
The successful project manager at HSBC is swapping high finance in Sheffield for four years of medical school in Swansea.
After leaving the Territorial Army and starting a Masters degree in business administration, James, aged 35, began weekend volunteering on the inpatient unit at Ashgate Hospice in Chesterfield.
He said: “Plan A had been to complete the Masters and continue to develop my career at HSBC, but the enjoyment and satisfaction I got from working with people at the hospice led me to completely reassess things.”
“I helped out on the wards and day unit, giving out the food, bringing round drinks and chatting to the patients.
“It’s just so rewarding. You see people week in, week out, and you get to know them. The doctors and nursing staff at Ashgate are just brilliant. They have such empathy and always try to understand and work with their patients.
“They were inspirational and whatever I do in medicine will definitely involve a high level of social contact with patients - such as palliative medicine, emergency medicine or even general practice.”
James did a pharmaceutics degree before going into IT and project management and successfully completed entrance exams for the graduate entry medical degree at the University of Swansea. The four-year course starts in September.
The father-of-one from Chesterfield added: “My father was a pharmacist and my mum worked as a pharmacy assistant at Chesterfield Royal but when I went to university first time round I did not have the focus – I wasn’t ready for a career in medicine.
“Becoming a father and the experience of volunteering at Ashgate has given me that focus and drive.”
Super-fit James is also raising money for Ashgate Hospice. Last weekend he completed the elite Ironman Triathlon UK at Bolton. The gruelling endurance event involved swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 112 miles and running a marathon - in less than 17 hours!
Ashgate, which helps over 8,000 patients a year across North Derbyshire, has launched a major recruitment drive for volunteers to help on the inpatient and day unit.
Admissions have risen dramatically – up nearly 20 per cent last year.
The number of people attending its 16-place day unit has also rocketed by more than 40 per cent in the last 12 months.
Debbie Fennell, voluntary services co-ordinator, said: “Volunteers are an incredibly important part of the team at Ashgate and help us deliver high quality care and support to the people of North Derbyshire who need us. “But as patient numbers rise we desperately need more volunteers.
“It’s very rewarding work. You will be providing valuable practical help – such as serving meals and refreshments and getting involved in activities.”