Tauranga Hospital is in need of more volunteers to help support patients after the Covid-19 lockdown saw a significant drop in numbers.
St John national community care manager Julie Taverner said the number of Friends of the Emergency Department (FEDs) had fallen after the country went into lockdown last year.
In March 2020, 42 people were volunteering as FEDs. Now, there are only 33 volunteers.
"As we moved into lockdown a year ago, many St John volunteers were unable to continue their community work as we suspended many of our community health initiatives to keep everyone safe.
"When we re-started our community programmes on return to level 1, our people returned to the Tauranga Hospital Emergency Department. Many of our volunteers were no longer available, resulting in a drop in our volunteer numbers," said Taverner.
FEDs team leader Barbara Inkster had been a volunteer with St John for the past 18 years.
She said there were gaps in their roster, which put pressure on hospital staff when no volunteers were available.
"The nurses are great, but they are busy. They deal with what they have to - and we fill in the gaps."
Seventy-one-year-old Ron Murfitt, who had been volunteering for the past four years, agreed.
"We make a lot of difference. It's nice to help the doctors and nurses because they are always flat out."
Making a good cup of tea and being a good talker were just some of the skills volunteers needed to have, said Inkster.
"I don't drink tea, and my mother used to say that I made a terrible cup of tea, but when I make tea for these people they are so grateful. And you know it's because they are so stressed."
Other volunteer duties included helping with the delivery of meals, sitting with patients, supporting relatives, and offering a shoulder to cry on.
"We are there for the comfort of patients and their relatives. We do nothing medical, but we help lighten the atmosphere.
"We are there to talk to them, relieve their stress and help them with an extra blanket or whatever else they need."
Tauranga ED clinical nurse manager John Wylie said the "hugely valued" work done by the volunteers helped to free up time for the nurses.
"The work the volunteers undertake in performing some of the smaller tasks, like tidying up or getting patients cups of tea, just helps the nursing staff to concentrate on providing nursing care.
"These may seem small things on the outside but in an ever-increasingly busy working environment like the ED, any jobs like these which are taken away from the nurses help to free them up."
Volunteers also provided "massive emotional support" to patients and their families, Wylie said.
"The whole nursing team hugely appreciate the volunteers giving up their time to provide the help they do within the ED. The patients and patients' families also value them immensely as well.
"For example, a simple sit-down with a patient, holding their hand and providing a measure of comfort, is a massive emotional support for someone who has invariably just been through a traumatic event."
Both Inkster and Murfitt said it was a privilege to be allowed behind the scenes in ED.
"The fun part is meeting people and the good part is being helpful," said Inkster.
"Please volunteer, we need more volunteers."
"I look forward to every shift. And when I leave for the day I feel like I have done something nice and contributed to the ED. It makes you feel good when you know you have done something to help," said Murfitt.
Factbox - How to volunteer
Get in touch with St John by phoning 0800 785 646 or contact Barbara Inkster on 021 250 5079