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Whangare Hospital welcomes St John friends

Press Release – St John

From today, patients and staff at the Whangarei Hospital Emergency Department will have the support of a new group of friends from St John.

The St John Friends of the Emergency Department service (FEDs) is being rolled out for the first time at Whangarei Hospital, where volunteers will provide comfort and support to patients and their families in the ED.

“The role varies from keeping company of a patient waiting to see a nurse, fetching a warm blanket and helping out with the delivery of meals and cups of tea, to sitting and listening, or reading to a patient,” says Nissy Concisom, St John Community Care Manager – Northern Region.

“We know that emergency departments can get very busy and patients are sometimes in distress or feeling lonely if they don’t have loved ones living nearby, so having a FED there to support and reassure them can make a real difference. In a way, our FEDs serve as a liaison between a patient and the nurses and doctors,” says Ms Concisom.

The free service was launched at Auckland Hospital in May 2002, following a successful pilot in November 2001. St John now has more than 840 FED and Hospital Friends (volunteers in smaller hospitals with no ED) in 27 hospitals across New Zealand, of which more than 200 serve in eight hospitals in the Northern Region.

“The initiative is in line with one of our core values of partnering and working side by side with other services to improve the health and wellbeing of our communities,” says Ms Concisom.

Retired couple, Richard and Eileen Thesiger were volunteers at the St John store in Huntly for four and a half years. The pair decided to sign up as FEDs after recently moving to Whangarei.

“We didn’t know anybody in Whangarei and how do you make friends? You get involved in your community. We just walked into the St John station and asked if they needed help with anything and were told this service was launching,” says Eileen.

And the pair can testify they have made friends through their volunteering and have gained a sense of accomplishment. “It’s always been our commitment to help other people and the wider community. We’ve continued volunteering because we feel like we’re moving forward with St John,” says Eileen.

Whangarei Hospital is the latest of Northland District Health Board’s four hospitals to introduce St John FEDs. It follows the successful roll out of the service at Bay of Islands Hospital and Dargaville Hospital, both in 2010.

Whangarei Hospital Emergency Department clinical nurse manager Kathryn Erai says they feel very privileged to finally have FEDs coming to work alongside them in the department.

“We really appreciate them giving up their own time to offer comfort cares like a cup of tea, blanket or a sandwich to patients and families in need who are often here on their own.”

FED volunteers generally work a four hour shift once a week or fortnightly. Individuals wanting to volunteer for St John can contact Stephen.robinson@stjohn.org.nz [1] or phone 0800 ST JOHN ext. 8930.

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