A gentleman walks up to Rangi Iti’s enquiries desk, “I hear you know everything!” She laughs and agrees with the man. “I do, I really do.” Rangi tells Annie French and Nicola Stewart the importance of finding humour in the everyday at Waikato Hospital.
It’s like you live on a street for a long time and you know all your neighbours. You get people coming past and you don’t always know their name, but they say hello to you because you see them all the time. Some people come in and all they want to do is have a talk. That’s why I like the job. My grandchildren come up and they go, "see how many people my Nana talks to!" I’m famous like L&P and I’m not even in Paeroa! I’m from Otorohanga, and I’m from a family of 11. You had to talk otherwise you’d get lost – it set me in good stead.
This is the main entrance – I love it because I can see people coming. I like to think up stories as people go past. It is the best place to people watch. Sometimes it’s quite sad because I will see people on a regular basis, make jokes with them; and then I will read in the paper that they have died.
"This is the main entrance – I love it because I can see people coming. I like to think up stories as people go past. It is the best place to people watch. "
Waikato has seen some horrific accidents and we are the ones having to handle all the enquiries. When families come in and they are crying I just feel for them. It’s a challenge for me, trying to convey to them that you feel really sorry for them, without making them break down and cry even more. Some of them are just holding on. This is a hospital so you know something hasn’t gone too good. It’s sad but then again it’s also good because you can just do a little more to help them and make it a bit easier for them.
I remember when they had that fire out at Tamahere [the 2008 explosion at the Icepak Coolstore]. It was quite a stressful time. I had finished work at five and as I was leaving I saw smoke over the city. I saw some nurses running and I knew that they were off duty so I went back to see if I could help. I spent a couple of hours as a runner, going back from emergency to enquiries because they couldn’t put information into the computer fast enough. People were rushing in to see if it was theirs and I was updating them as ambulances arrived. I think I stayed on to help for an hour, an hour and a half after.
Most days I am just directing people to various wards and clinics and answering phones for patient enquiries. Generally the first point of call is here. Many just want to know where a patient is, where they can find them and how they can get there. It’s a bit of a maze in here – some of the clinics have had three homes in the past six months. You’ll often see people looking round like, "somebody please help me".
It has gone fast the 11 years that I’ve been here; it’s gone really fast. There have been heaps of changes – from the layout, right down to the doctors that come and go. Some of them leave here as house surgeons and they come back as consultants.
It really is a life, eh – you spend eight hours here. I really couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.
Interviewed by Annie French & Nicola Stewart
Photograph by Chelsea Dela Rue