Our People: St John’s and a bit of Ed Sheeran

Robyn Searle

Robyn Searle, from Southbridge, has been volunteering for St John for 42 years. Emily O’Connell talks to her about her most memorable call-out, recent success in the Selwyn Awards and her love for popstar Ed Sheeran

When did you join St John and how old were you?

It was in 1976 and I was about 23-years-old.

Why did you join?

Because I love working with people and helping people get better. I’ve always wanted to.

What’s been your most memorable call-out?

I delivered the baby and the baby was the first patient for the new millennium. It was lovely, especially, when I was a Karitane nurse. As a Karitane nurse, we were trained through Plunket and I qualified in 1972. You had to do 18 months training at the Karitane Hospital on Cashmere Hill when it was there. You went out and did private nannying more or less, so I was so lucky to be able to deliver the baby.

How do you process trauma from what you see volunteering?

We always have a really good team of people, a team back-up. If you have a horrific accident or something they will keep in contact with you and they will make sure that you’re okay dealing with it. After we’ve been out on a call-out, we always discuss things.

How many hours a week do you spend volunteering for St John?

I do it on a Monday night, just two and a half hours at the moment and that’s just with cadets. There are times when you might have to work with them for competitions or something but that’s not much.

Do you still volunteer on ambulances also?

No, I’ve given that up now because I have a crook shoulder. But I do love working with the cadets. It’s great, they’re just fantastic.

Do you miss volunteering on ambulances?

Yes, I just loved that caring. Especially for the elderly people who you know are going into hospital and they’re not quite sure if they’re going to come out or not. I think the hardest part is taking in a cancer patient that you know they’re not going to come home. Its really hard to say goodbye to them.

What are some of the things you do with the cadets?

They do camps. They have to do badge work like guides and scouts and all that sort of thing would. They do certain badge work and we work with them at different age groups . . . Every term we do a different badge and so we work with them on that. So it could be civil defence, it could be animal care and then we get people to come in. We try and get people in the district, to talk to them if they specialise in that area like the fire brigade. Or we may even get some of our own ambulance officers to come in and talk to them about different things.

Is anyone in your family also a part of St John?

No, I’m the only one.

Have you ever had to be in an ambulance as a patient?

Only once and that was last year.

What happened?

I had a headache . . . It was just high blood pressure and it was somebody from Darfield that came out. That was good.

How was that experience?

You have all your confidence in the people that are looking after you because you’ve got that background. Because I had the headache and then a bleeding nose for about an hour or more, you know that you’re going to get treated well.

What’s been the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt from your volunteering?

I think just the care of people who are sick and making sure that they get the care that we can give them. Confidentiality is another great thing and learning to talk to them and make them trust you. They’ve got trust in you.

Do you have any plans to stop volunteering for St John?

I will keep going for as long as I can.

What advice would you give to people who wants to learn basic first aid?

CPR is always a great thing to do. Just the basics. If you do a first aid course then at least you can help someone before the ambulance gets there and you know, it comes straight to you when you’re working on somebody and you think “what do I have to do?” But it naturally comes to you after you’ve done a first aid course.

What has been a highlight from your time with St John?

Getting my 42 years service bar and also getting the Member of the Order from the Queen. That’s put through by somebody in the community and then has it to be approved by the Queen. That was lovely because I got mine presented by Richard the Duke of Gloucester. I really enjoyed that night.

When did you get that?


You were the first runner-up for the Community Services Award and also nominated for the People’s Choice Award at the Selwyn Awards, how did that feel?

Great, really great. It was just a shame I wasn’t there to receive the certificate but it was lovely.

Why weren’t you able to attend?

Because I was overseas in Germany.

What were you doing in Germany?

Just a holiday. I went to Germany and Greece and then ended up in Rhodes island. My brother Bruce took me there because that was the Knights of the Order of St John, where it started. So we stayed within the walls of Rhodes island. So that was really good to go over there and see the foundation of St John.

Where do you work?

I’ve worked at Selwyn District Council for 12 years. I work for the cemeteries and records department.

What do you like about Selwyn?

It’s just a great place to be. It’s got everything going for it.

How do you balance work, volunteering, family life and everything else going on?

Oh well you work on that don’t you. It works out well. I really like my Monday nights with the cadets because they’re a great group. I just work around it really.

I hear you’re a fan of Ed Sheeran, have you ever been to a concert of his?

I am [a fan] . . . I like his music. If he came to Christchurch I would [go to his concert], yes I would. But it’s just all the crowds that go to it really. I think he’s lovely, very much a nice person, just natural.

What’s your favourite song?