While we applaud and celebrate all staff at Capital, Coast and Hutt Valley, as it is International Women’s Day, we are taking this opportunity to celebrate a group of women who are making incredible contributions in an area which has traditionally been dominated by men – Security and Orderlies.
If you ask people what a security or orderly person looks like, it would be fair to say the majority would instantly picture a strong burly person, maybe even donning a slick pair of aviators, in their mind. Actually orderlies and security people need to be approachable, skilled in diffusing stressful situations and able to provide support to people who are unwell or upset.
At Te Whatu Ora Capital, Coast and Hutt Valley the Security and Orderlies team leads at Wellington Regional and Hutt Valley Hospitals are both women. We spoke with them and some of their team members who have turned the tide on ‘that image’ and are making their presence felt in this extremely important role of helping keep staff, patients and their whānau safe, and our hospital’s running smoothly.
What’s it like working in an area which was previously dominated by men, and what difference have women made?
Esavra: “I’ve worked with orderlies and security on and off for 17 years and when I first started, there weren’t a lot of women. With women in a male-dominated field, we are able to bring a completely different perspective to security at the hospital. We have a large variety of females in our rotation now that do an amazing job sorting out situations. A lot of the men here even say the women are better at security because they can have a lot more empathy and understanding of situations. Plus we’re good at talking. Women can be great at de-escalating situations because we are more natural listeners. It’s a good skill to have when dealing with patients!”
Vanessa: “It’s great. I think both the Hutt and Wellington teams are quite unique in that we have a different model than a lot of other hospitals, as our orderly and security teams are combined, so it’s great being part of that. The women we have here bring many different attributes to the team that help in most situations. And I’ll say, females are really good in Security and Orderlies because there’s no egos involved.”
Michaela: “I’ve been on the Hutt Security and Orderlies team for three years now. As much as some of the situations can be horrible I do enjoy the de-escalation side of security. The thing is a lot of people forget we are in a hospital and no one wants to be here. You are already stressed out, you’re already worried, and the last thing you want is to make matters worse. So sitting down and explaining to people the processes and what’s going on does help a lot in certain situations. I feel women at times can have more patience and show empathy in high stressed situations.
Lynne: “Having women doing our roles is great and it would be better if we had more. We just tend to have a bit more empathy. When communicating with patients I often bring out that motherly role rather than that security/orderly role. I’ve been able to attend some security calls where we do have the big brawn guys come a long too as we need them as back-up and they can look quite intimidating. Where here’s little old Lynne who comes along and talks to the patient one-on-one and calms them right down. I’m not a big woman at all, but it’s about using other skills we have. Plus, we also lift the big oxygen bottles and push the big beds, just like the males, so we can do what they do!”
Have you seen a change over the years as more women have taken on these roles?
Rae: “I am an orderly based in Older Persons and Rehab Service (OPRS) so I look after our elderly people and I have been doing it for 19 years. Over this time I have seen a big shift when it comes to women being on our team. I think it’s really good that we have got more women here as we bring a lot of variety to the role, especially when it comes to communication. Most of us are mothers, grandmothers, aunties. I don’t know if that has a bearing on it, but sometimes you just treat people like they’re your family. And some people, who may be having a bit of a moment, they’ll respond to that mother figure better because it’ll remind them of their mum or nanna talking to them, making it easier to calm any situation.”
Lynne: “When I started here it was really male-dominated but it has changed over the years. I think women didn’t initially think they could do this job, believing it was a man’s job. But now, once you know the ins and outs of the role, it’s like, ‘oh I can do this’, which has opened the door for more women to come in and do this role, and I’m loving it!”
Esavra: “It’s definitely starting to change because women have been breaking through the stereotypes that used to hold them back. I get a lot of women applying for roles here, which is great because women know these roles are for everyone, and they can still do the jobs and be successful.”
Vanessa: “When I’m interviewing for roles in my team I’m looking for people with empathy and communication skills. I’m not looking for the big burly security guard because security in a hospital is a whole different environment. That is why we are getting more women involved in our teams because as I mentioned earlier, they have those attributes.
How much do you love your job, and what would you say to anyone thinking of working in security and orderlies?
Rae: “Oh I love it a lot. If I can do anything I just want to do this. I’m part of a great team, not just the team in Security and Orderlies, but everywhere in the hospital. Again, I just love it.”
Michaela: “The work we do, it really does help people. When you show up to a patient and you have a smile on your face, it might be the first time they have interacted with someone all day, so I enjoy that interaction with the patients and asking how their day is. That’s the side I really enjoy. And the staff I work with are just awesome. Don’t under estimate your abilities. Every day is different with different challenges but that's part of the fun.”
Vanessa: “No day’s the same. Lynne delivered a baby and had to remove the cord from around the baby’s neck outside our base because the baby decided to arrive before the parent made it to the hospital. So you never know what’s going to happen.”
Esavra: “It’s a really rewarding job. Making that one patient smile is awesome and makes you feel good. And women are really good at it!”
Lynne: “After eight years in the role there’s not one day where I think ‘ugh’. Truly I’ve never felt that way. I get up, come here and say I hope I never lose what I have here. And being a woman doing this role makes me very proud.”
So to all the women out there reading this, Happy International Women’s Day! Thank you to all the security and orderlies here and around Aotearoa. And if you’re considering becoming a Security or Orderly, in the words of Lynne, “You can do it, and do it well.”