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Coffee Break with Ward Clerk Robert Whaley

28th November 2022

Robert Whaley, Ward Clerk - Coffee Break

What do you do and why do you do it?

I’m a Ward Clerk for Ward B in the Mater Hospital. We look after and track patient medical charts and help keep track of where patients are.

I got into the job more or less by accident.  I’d been doing agency work with Libraries NI, but that position came to an end suddenly due to budget cuts.  The next post the agency offered me was a temporary slot as a Ward Clerk with the Trust. I’m still here, so it must agree with me.

How do patients and service users benefit from what you do?

We help with the accurate collection, recording, organisation, storage and security of information about our patients.  If we’re doing it right, then it’s that much easier for everyone else to find the information that they need when they need it. It’ll be in the right place, in the right order, visible on our electronic systems and easily retrievable.

Tell us about a typical day at work?

First thing to do is the inpatient list, which patient is in which bed.  Then I check the list against the previous day’s list, to see what’s changed – who’s come in and who’s gone out. I look for errors, missing or wrong information, making sure that all inpatients on the Ward are accounted for and properly admitted. Discharges, deaths, and transfers are all recorded on our electronic systems and on paper. Then I follow up on any documentation that’s gone astray, follow-up appointments for patients, discharge letters, death certificates and the like.   I tidy, label and track patient charts. Discharged patient’s charts are clipped up and kept for five days before being sent on the medical secretaries, transfers are tracked to the destination hospital. Then I start on the inpatient charts – clip up new admissions, filing anything that needs filing, restocking address labels, ordering in charts or new volumes if they’re needed, tidying up and repairs. After that, I’ll be sorting through the post and checking patient demographics. Throughout the day, I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open for discharges and transfers and updating our systems as I go.  I’m also there to track down and retrieve charts for enquiries on the Ward. I’ll also take general enquiries, keep my work area in good order and do this and that to help out when I can.

If one of your colleagues was sitting with you right now what is the best piece of advice you could give them?

If you’re moving a patient or a patient’s medical chart, how will someone be able to find them later?

Keeping records of where patients and their medical charts go is very important and sometimes gets overlooked.  If it’s not done, it’s time-consuming and complicated to find them again. Ward Clerks help to keep track, but we’re only as good as the information we get.  If in doubt, ask the Ward Clerk!

Tell us about the satisfaction you get from your job?

The most satisfying thing is when I can help colleagues with work in ways they never knew the Ward Clerk Service could.

Tell us a little about your life outside of work?

Getting totally lost in a really good book is the most relaxing thing.  The second most relaxing thing is going for a long walk away somewhere and not seeing another person for hours. The best book I’ve read recently is Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer and the best walk I’ve had this year was on Knoydart in Scotland this summer.