St John volunteers Lisa Anderson, Kerry Gentleman and John WallaceThexton. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Nelson’s volunteer ambulance provides vital support


A Nelson ambulance is now being run solely by volunteers, meaning St John can now help more people across the region.

The introduction of a double-crewed staffing initiative has allowed St John to send two paid staff members on callouts, instead of relying on a volunteer to buddy with paid staff.

Instead of adding a third person to callouts, the volunteers seized the opportunity to add another resource to the team, by manning their own ambulance. Nelson Bays territory and manager Anne-Maree Harris says it’s been fantastic to give the volunteers the extra resource and get them on the roster.

“Normally there has been one paid officer paired with one volunteer, but we’ve transitioned into two volunteers so that means one of them need to be the clinical lead.” Before the initiative rollout, volunteers were locked into a 12-hour shift, something manager Anne-Maree says is not practical for many people.

“The work-life balance is very important and, if you add in a volunteer component to that, people are busy, so this allows that flexibility.”

She says the change has also meant acknowledging the skillset that the volunteers have and saying, “you can do this”.

“Of course, they’ve been supported with more training but it’s getting rid of their self-doubt and saying ‘you can do this’, you’ve been doing it it’s just a slight change.”

St John volunteer Lisa Anderson says it means having another whole ambulance ready to respond, which leads to less waiting time for ambulances to get to jobs.

John Wallace-Thexton has been a volunteer first responder for eight years and enjoys being able to get out and support sports matches and events.

“I was out at my son’s rugby game one day and somebody got injured and nobody knew what they were doing and I thought ‘well, I know first aid but now I just want to be able to have some kit and go out there and do something’, so I signed up.”

The extra ambulance has meant that the volunteer team can now get out to more of these community events.

“The reason they volunteer is they want to give back to their community and pay it forward, it’s been really rewarding for me to see them smile when they get in that vehicle and they enjoy their shift,” says Anne-Maree.

“We need them, St. John wouldn’t be functioning without our volunteers.”