A good cuppa, a kind word and a listening ear are the tools of the trade for two Ōhauiti women who dedicate their spare time to volunteering in Tauranga Hospital's emergency department.

Judith Grobelny and Barbara Inkster, both retirees in their 70s, are neighbours turned friends.

The volunteers, dubbed the Friends of the Emergency Department, calmly roam the busy wing.

From soothing an upset child or confused elderly person, tactfully reminding a tetchy patient they're not the only one needing medical attention, or simply listening to someone share their life story, the emergency department angels do it all.


Countless hot beverages - tea, milo, coffee - are handed out to grateful hands.

Inkster has volunteered for 16 years - seven in Tauranga and nine in Auckland - and roped in Grobelny two years ago when they became neighbours.

Grobelny said she found the experience enriching and inspiring.

"I never come home feeling down."

She said there were often elderly people there who could be a bit befuddled in the emergency department.

"You just sit there and let them tell their stories and talk about their families. Some of the stories are fantastic.

"It's a matter of finding something that they love to talk about so that they walk away with a smile on their face."

Grobelny said she would not be quitting any time soon.


"I'll keep going as long as I can walk the passages for four hours."

Inkster said volunteers got as much out of the experience as they gave.

"You get to meet all sorts of interesting people and you always go home feeling useful," Inkster said.

Aside from offering a friendly listening ear, she enjoyed brightening up what could be a sombre atmosphere.

"Sometimes I'll walk into a quiet part of the department and say, 'can you keep it down in here?'"

St John was searching for volunteers for Friends of the Emergency Department and Inkster called on people to get in touch if they were interested in volunteering.

St John in the Western Bay of Plenty
- Ambulance crews responded to 18,011 incidents in 2018
- The most common callouts were for falls, chest pain and breathing problems, which make up over 25 per cent of callouts
- Motor vehicle crashes account for 4 per cent of all callouts
- There are currently 38 people who act as Friends of the Emergency Department volunteers
Source: St John