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Former All Black Captain Joins The Tauranga Hospital Orderlies Team

Former All Black captain and winger Stu Wilson can now add another name to the list of teams he has represented, the Tauranga Hospital Orderlies.

Many will remember Stu from his rugby-playing heyday of the late 70s and early 80s, when the charismatic winger with the jinking sidestep once held the record for the number of All Black test tries. He’s now just as proud to be wearing the Orderlies uniform.

“I’ve had a few wee issues with my heart and had a stent put in here at Tauranga Hospital a while back,” said Stu, who moved to Tauranga from Auckland three years ago for love, getting married in October last year. “They put me back on the road to recovery, absolutely lovely people, and it got me thinking this wouldn’t be a bad place to work. I had this image that I could actually give something back and I’d just retired so I had the time.”

Stu got a job with a contractor supplying bariatric beds and mattresses to the hospital but the job didn’t quite suit him.

“I got to know some of the Orderlies in that time and they said why not come over to our side,” said the 66 year-old. “I needed a job for a couple of days a week to get me out of the house and thought this could be it.”

All Black No.772 became an Orderly a month ago and is currently in his 4-6 week training phase. He has rapidly built up a rapport with his new teammates.

“It’s fun, the crew are great and it’s very much a team effort in here. We all have each other on so it’s a good craic as they would say in Ireland,” he says smiling broadly. “I’m getting a lot out of it. The girls and guys are good people, always ready to help one another out and I like that. The whole hospital is a very friendly place to work.

“An old All Black friend of mine phoned me the other night and asked how things were going. I told him how much I was enjoying it and that I was in training. He said: “Well you used to hate training!” I told him this was different, you actually have to do it.”

Stu is a sociable character and clearly enjoys the interaction with staff and patients.

“I was walking in the other day and a nurse asks me if I’m Stu Wilson as she’d heard I was working here. She said: “When I told my dad you were working here he said to ‘Tell him thanks for all the memories’. That was lovely but I did get a little bit embarrassed because I think the other nurses she was with were thinking ‘Who’s that old guy?’,” laughs Stu, who now lives in Brookfield.

“There are times when I’m asked if I can have a chat with one of the older patients on the wards because they remember me playing footy. You can’t do it all the time of course, I mean I’m still on the clock, but my manager Bruce and the rest of the team understand the importance of it, and if it makes someone’s day to spend a couple of minutes with them then why not?”

Bay of Plenty District Health Board (BOPDHB) Orderly Service Regional Team Leader Bruce Raynel says Stu’s arrival has added to the already diverse nature of his Orderlies team. It’s a team which includes retired bank managers, a former jeweller to the royal family, housewives and mothers, business owners, a prison officer, a bricklayer and security guards.

“We are one big family, male, female, whatever age, walk of life you come from, we’re all just part of the same team and Stu has fitted right in with that,” said Bruce. “None of us have medical backgrounds, but we’re here to service the needs of the hospital and I think that’s a common trait amongst Orderlies, that sense of giving back and helping out.”

Orderlies are the oil that helps run the hospital machine and a day’s work could involve a host of jobs including: delivering drugs and equipment around the hospital, helping patients to and from wards, doing mail, linen, milk, recycling and waste runs, and much more.

“Being an Orderly is a very varied and interesting job,” said Bruce. “You need to know what every department does, what equipment each department needs, and where to get it. The orderlies really have to know everything in order to carry out their jobs well. During a patient transfer, for example, we also need to know the needs of that patient during the transfer.

“We do everything from the start of life to the end. An Orderly will frequently walk between 10-20kms a day around the hospital campus. You can certainly go home at the end of your shift knowing you’ve contributed to your community,” added Bruce.

Stu has joined a team of 50 orderlies working across Tauranga and Whakatāne hospitals. In his rugby days he represented the All Blacks from 1976-1983, scoring 50 tries, and captained the national team on the 1983 Scotland/England tour before retiring in 1984. He went on to work as a television presenter and radio host, before also dabbling in real estate and working for charitable organisations.

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