Dr Mike Jordan
As I was approaching retirement I was ‘cornered’ by a friend who volunteered with a local stroke charity looking for a new chairman. Despite my initial reservations about the commitment on my time, I’m delighted I took up the role. The first year working with ‘Talk’ has been thoroughly enjoyable.
Talk is based in Surrey and helps people who have aphasia or loss of speech following a stroke. Mike says: “We work with the individual, helping to reprogramme their brain, essentially making them speak. Often they might know the word they want to say but just can’t say it. We organise weekly meetings with a group of other ‘recoverers’ and they will also work one-on-one with a volunteer therapist.
“Stroke victims are often well supported in hospital but less so when they leave. We provide a place where they can meet other recoverers, enjoy social gatherings, day trips etc. They are encouraged to recover by their peer support and often recoverers then become volunteers themselves. The earlier we get involved the better the chance of recovery.”
Mike explains that it’s easy to have the wrong idea about charity workers; they are not do-gooders with nothing better to do. “I enjoy my role as chairman immensely but the highlight of my work is easily the other volunteers. They don’t do their jobs to be worthy, they get involved because it’s so rewarding. They are uplifting and great fun.”
The different environment can be attractive too. “It is entirely removed from my medical work – although I have an insider’s understanding of the good intentions of the NHS and its limitations of course. My work has always been mainly inside hospital centres, inside operating theatres so it’s been great to see how patients with long-term medical conditions progress. The most refreshing aspect is that at Talk, if you ask someone to do something, they will jump at the chance. If like me you’re used to chairing NHS meetings with fellow doctors you’ll see everyone stare at their shoes if you ask the same question. The enthusiasm of my new colleagues is extraordinary.”
Mike believes his voluntary role helped to ease him into retirement. “Retirement takes people in different ways but I really looked forward to it. I enjoy my medical work – I always have – but it never dominated my life in terms of family, friends or outside interests. Some doctors who dedicate their lives to their work to the exclusion of everything else seem to struggle with the concept of retirement.
“I would absolutely recommend that other doctors get involved. Volunteering is a great way to put to good use the ‘people skills’ earned during your medical career. If you have skills to spare then why not give them freely?”
Dr Mike Jordan has also seen the benefits of getting involved in a not-for-profit organisation. A consultant anaesthetist working with the WGC Anaesthetist Partnership in Surrey, he retired from the NHS one year ago and spends a day and a half per week in private practice.