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Life Support

Hospital ‘wardies’. They deserve our respect.

I recieved an email today from an emergency department nurse in Tasmania asking for a story a wrote a while back about the importance of hospital orderlies. It is probably even more relevent in these days of COVID-19 than ever before. Here it is……


In some hospitals they may be called orderlies or porters.
In Australia they are usually called wardsmen (or wards-persons, because there are females in this role as well), but they are more commonly referred to as ‘wardies‘ by the nurses. Out of a deep and affectionate respect.

Without them life in hospital would quickly unravel into a chaos of unobtainable medical equipment, unavoidable delays, unattended medical investigations, unacceptable outcomes, and uncurbed anger & aggression.

That is how important they are. Even so they remain an oft-forgotten and under appreciated arm of the healthcare team. Lets have a quick look at some of their roles and responsibilities:

Patient transport: Wardies are the red blood cells of the hospital.

You will most likely first meet one when they turn up to transport you around the hospital for clinical interventions, procedures or appointments. Taking you for an X-ray, or transporting you to physiotherapy or delivering you to theatres.

Despite the increasing use of motorised or mechanical devices to assist them with this, it remains a very physical work. They cover a lot of ground,
On beds, in wheelchairs, on foot, whatever your requirements, they will take you. Always ready to strike up a little conversation along the way.

Patient care. Without wardies many incapacitated patients would not get a proper wash, or be moved around the bed to prevent pressure ulcer formation, or be positioned correctly for X-rays or other procedures.
In specialty areas such as ICU or neruo or spinal wards, or burns units, they are an essential component of the patients treatment path each day.

Wardies require endless patience and carefully measured muscle.
From gently guiding confused or wandering elderly back to their beds in the aged care unit, to firmly restraining the combative, drug or alcohol effected patients down in the Emergency Department.

Getting stuff. Wardies are constantly utilised by medical staff to move and retrieve vital bits of equipment. Or to reallocate resources.
A typical telephone conversation requesting a wardie might go something like this:

Um, could you please quickly go waaaaaaay over to ward 11B on the other end of the hospital and drop off this doohicky. Its urgent.

Oh, and on your way back, could you please pop up to level 10 and pick up an infusion pump…and if you notice any spare wheelchairs laying about, we are a little short. And pillows, if you see a pillow or three that’s not nailed down, could you try and pinch it? We are all out.

But don’t take too long…..Ive got four patients that need transporting to medical imaging and a pack of unused red blood cells that needs to go back to the blood-bank pronto!

Keepers of wisdom. Those wardies that have been around a long time are repositories of both corporate knowledge and the mysterious ways-of-the-wards.

They move around and through the wards and clinical areas. They learn the ways things should be done. They spread the love.

And …they often know the latest news and gossip from all over the hospital. They are a sort of combination GPS, Swiss Army Knife and Facebook page.

Getting physical. Perhaps one of the most under-recognised and important roles wardies undertake is that of providing physical protection to staff and other patients.

Staff often rely on them to sit with a potentially aggressive or combative patient, and just be there for them, or to talk them down. They are there to repeatedly protect a confused patient that is trying to climb out of bed from harming themselves.

On occasion where patients or other members of the public do require urgent physical restraint due to aggression or altered mentation, it is our wardies who step up to the plate. Yes, many hospitals have security guards, but they seldom engage in any actual physical contact with patients. Somebody has to get hands on.

Providing quick and effective non-violent restraint of an aggressive ( sometimes dangerously so) patient within a hospital environment is incredibly difficult. I have watched them do this time and time again with coordinated professionalism and respect for the person they are handling that many police might take note of.

CPR: In many emergency departments (and throughout the hospital) wardies are used to perform chest compressions during cardiac arrests. They are good at it, and often form a CPR line-up, seamlessly rotating thru at frequent intervals to ensure uninterrupted quality chest compressions.

Wardies. They do not get a whole lot of money for the important work and varied roles they are called on to do.
They should at the very least get is our respect and gratitude.
Thank one today.

15 replies on “Hospital ‘wardies’. They deserve our respect.”

Im a Wardsperson Supervisor at the Canberra Hospital, being working for 15yrs. What a top compliment and quite a thorough description of some of our duties, many don’t know quite the extent of the roles we work. I’m very grateful for the team we have at the hospital, each and everyone of my colleagues is valuable and when times get tough(often) they step up with mostly no complaining. The mateship and backing each other up is what makes the job unique, and the daily laughter that breaks the day up in what can be trying/emotional moments. Cheers to all👍.

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I have been a Wardie for almost 20 years I love my job looking after people at their lowest to the their highest point in their lives from death to child birth,I work with a great bunch of people from fellow Wardies, nurses,support staff and doctors and I hope iam there for another 20 years, keep up the good work.🤙😉

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Yes glad to see how much we are appreciated, I was a wards person at a Brisbane bayside hospital, we had to deal with all of the things that has been noted plus as we had an ED department and a needle available area had the aggression of people who were heavily intoxicated with alcohol or high on ice and other drugs, we were constantly being abused and threatened , my line manager and other managers were informed by phone and incident forms .it got so mush more as the years went past, one night when I was to do a night shift I became quite ill thinking I was having a heart attack, I went to the bigger bayside hospital as my wife insisted I do so as she was so worried, this hospital was where my line managers and higher managers were located that over looked the smaller bayside hospital hospital
Anyway when I presented to the hospital the treating doctor ,after running many tests decided that I was under so much stress over my working situation, my line manager told me to claim this under workcover ..when they were investigating my case the higher management told workcover that they had no idea of this problem I was speaking of and that I should have told them and it would have been sorted, because I was under so much health problems at this time I didn’t fight the management claims, it’s taken me 4 years to be in a reasonable place mentally,I have not worked since all of this happened, I loved my job looking after sick people for more that 32 years but the last few years were really bad, and with The management issues that I faced has made me quite ill , the small hospital has now been rebuilt in another area close to the original site, but unfortunately the managers are still oversee this smaller hospital from the bigger Brisbane bayside hospital….so yes the wards people do an amazing job and it’s nice to see the great feedback

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I am extremely grateful as a Wardie to provide support to an amazing team of highly skilled Healthcare Professionals who provide critical care in an Intensive Care Unit! As A Wardie in ICU my role entails not only what this fantastic article covers it also requires a vast knowledge of equipment and medical supplies only used in ICU in which I’m often asked to retrieve from their various storerooms quite often in an emergency.

As an ICU Wardie, i am dedicated to Providing the highest level of support to the Nurses, Allied health professionals and care to the patients in a critical care environment.

Being in ICU and working very closely with all of the team is very rewarding, satisfying and humbling for me as all the staff, particularly Nurses have great appreciation and gratitude for Our continuous support to them on a daily basis!

Thank you for publishing this article and creating awareness to the community how essential a Wards persons role is in the hospital environment!

Now more than ever we will be providing hands on support, care and protection to staff and patients affected by the COVID19 crisis.

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I have been a wardy for 6 years and love my job I get to bounce from job to job help where I’m needed have a joke with the nurses and patients.I see people at their worst sick and in pain.I think the doctors get all the wraps but they are not the ones behind the scenes rolling and moving so you’re stay in hospital

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As a wardsman we all so have to look after your loved ones that have passed and still show them the respect that they deserve we see a lot of things that the Normal person would not see we have our moments but we soldier on I for one love my job as a wardsman

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Omg when do we not call a wardie- I’m a bugger for locking and stuffing the beds up and can never remember how to unlock the damn things but I know the warriors know. The long timers are a wealth of knowledge. We’d be up the creek without Wardies they are the paddle

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Yes ward man are warriors and people should realise how valuable they are they do much much more day in and day out I been a ward man for 25 years and iv seen a lot I enjoy looking after people

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Worked with a whole bunch of fantastic Wardies in theatre at the PAH many years ago Made my job so much easier and had a great sense of humour . A hard working , salt of the earth group of people
who deserve our utmost respect for the work they do & challenges they face , particularly in these uncertain times xxx

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I have been a “wardie” for 10years and I have so much respect for other “wardies” you have been doing for much longer . We do tend to feel like the forgotten people. But occassionally we do get thanks for the hard work we do. I have said more than once “wardies” are the backbone of all Hospital. The hold it all together. The provide the support.
Thankyou for the acknowledgement and especially at the moment. I am currently away studying but I know my fellow wardies needed this right now.

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You also forgot to mention how all that rubbish and linen disappears and clean linen turns up and how a space goes from dirty to clean in basically a blink of a eye

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Lovely to see someone has noticed us – I refer to us as the invisible people of the hospital – and you haven’t even touched on the role of the Theatre Orderly, positioning patients in all sorts of ways, often to within millimetres of the surgeons specifications, while being careful not to dislodge the lines, drains, breathing tube etc. It’s hard, often unnoticed but very rewarding work.

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