Success breeds success.
The volunteer contribution at Taupō Hospital's emergency department has been so successful the hospital is hoping to expand the service to its inpatient ward.
Friends of the Emergency Department (known as the FEDs) team leader Myrene McLeod heads up a team of mainly retired volunteers and will help set up a new team of volunteers for the inpatient ward. She says the new team will be run in a similar way as the FEDs and volunteers will be known as Hospital Friends.
The FEDs have been operating for more than 10 years. Myrene says the FEDs do three shifts a day. Each shift is four hours long, with one person on duty per shift. Initially, the Hospital Friends would do one shift per day at the inpatient ward.
"We are looking for volunteers who would enjoy talking and interacting with people when they are unwell, plus doing a few small chores," said Myrene.
Emil and Hea Min Horvath have volunteered as FEDs for the past three years. Neither of them had much to do with healthcare but had an extended hospital experience when Hea Min had a stroke eight years ago while on holiday in Germany. She was in hospital for three months and during this time she and husband Emil both came to admire the work done by the nurses who cared for her.
"I said to Emil, 'We should give something back when I am well'," said Hea Min.
It took five years before Hea Min felt she had sufficient strength, and three years ago they began their volunteer experience as Friends of the Emergency Department. Hea Min says they provide comfort to both the patients and to the people who bring them in.
"Also by being there we are a supportive presence for the nurses and doctors, particularly if there is a mental health patient."
She said it makes her so happy seeing the look on a child's face when, with the nurse's permission, she gives them an ice block.
Emil says retired residents from Summerset Village knit beautiful teddies, and giving a teddy to a fraught child makes a huge difference to their immediate outlook.
He also enjoys having a joke with the patients and nurses and says it is a good feeling to know at the end of his shift that he has brought cheer and laughter to people who unexpectedly find themselves in the hospital.
"It is a good feeling to be able to give something back," said Emil. Both agree being a FED is very rewarding.
Myrene says the application process for becoming a FED or Hospital Friend starts with a background check by St John New Zealand. Candidates do a training programme where they learn about health and safety issues, and disease-control measures. This is followed by on-the-job training, a buddy shift, and then they are qualified to work on their own.
Duties include providing support to patients and their relatives, making cups of tea, sitting with patients and quietly talking to them.
Myrene says volunteers need to be sure they are comfortable working in a hospital environment. Applicants also need to be reasonably fit as they will be walking up and down the ward during their shift.
She says volunteering at the hospital as a Hospital Friend will be immensely rewarding.
"At the end of the shift (as a FED) I have the satisfaction of feeling I have made a positive difference to another person."
* If you would like to apply to be a Hospital Friend at Taupō Hospital inpatient ward, please fill out the online application form at www.join.stjohn.org.nz or telephone 0800 St John 0800 78 5646.