They're used to making cups of tea for others but today the Friends of the Emergency Department were the ones being waited on.

About 30 St John volunteers, also known as FEDs, celebrated a decade of service providing comfort, support and information to patients and their families in the Hawke's Bay Hospital's Emergency Department.

It was May 30, 2008, when the first FEDs shift was completed and 10 years later six of the original group of volunteers are still involved.

St John Hastings area administrator and FEDs co-ordinator Karen Crysell-Jerphanion said their efforts were celebrated with an afternoon tea and special presentation at the St John headquarters.

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"We've got a really dedicated team of volunteers who give us their time and are valuable to St John and the DHB.

"They become part of a team, part of a family, and they have a connection. When I interview new potential FEDs [their reason to volunteer] is always because they want to give back to the community."

The initiative was first established in Hawke's Bay, in conjunction with the District Health Board, after the programme was successfully introduced to other main centres and a need for the service was identified in the region.

"FEDs is a non-clinical role and our volunteers are there to provide comfort, support and information to patients and their families while they're waiting to be seen by the medical staff.

"We help with making cups of tea for patients allowed to eat and drink, making beds and to ease the load for the medical staff with the non-clinical jobs that need doing," Crysell-Jerphanion said.

The volunteers, who work four-hour shifts seven days a week from 10am to 10pm, come from all walks of life and included retired and working individuals of all ages, she said.

"We just sit and chat with a patient if they might be there by themselves or they're a little bit lonely or have no support. We just chat generally and keep them company."

Their work was important to any emergency department, she said.

"The hospital staff certainly seem to welcome our volunteers being there because it allows them time to get on with all the clinical stuff."

Today the group celebrated the decade milestone with a specially designed cake, followed by a presentation for six of the volunteers who received foundation certificates for their long service.

"They're ones who have been here right from the beginning," Crysell-Jerphanion said.

The co-ordinator said there was always a need for more FEDs and anyone interested in volunteering could contact her at the Hastings St John office on 06 878 9515.