Secret lives of staff: Cumberland Hospital nurse by day – emergency first responder by night.

If you don’t catch him running a team of mental health nurses at Cumberland Hospital, you might find mental health’s director of nursing Wade Norrie wearing St John Ambulance greens on the frontline.

Wade has been an active volunteer emergency first responder and peer support worker with St John Ambulance NSW since 2011. Over the past 10 years, he has been on the ground during bushfires, floods, music festivals and everything in between.

“Being a volunteer worker is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Providing state-wide support and giving back to the community is a truly gratifying experience,” Wade said.

St John’s Ambulance NSW is a not-for-profit organisation that provides medical and first aid services throughout the state and Australia.

This volunteer-based service is one of the many ways Wade gives back to the community – an experience he was open to sharing this Mental Health Month.

Working as the director of nursing at Cumberland Hospital, Wade said his clinical experience greatly benefits his work with St John’s.

“I find I have a great balance between clinical work and administrative work. I have been in my role at Cumberland Hospital since February 2021 and love every minute of it,” he reflected.

“Like all jobs, it is extremely challenging and extremely rewarding. I feel a great sense of pride that I am able to lead a strong team of nurses who value patient care on such a high level.

“Working clinically with St John’s allows me to keep my skills fresh so I can better provide for the people of western Sydney.”

Always having had a passion for mental health work, Wade joins 60 other clinical members in the St John Ambulance Peer Support unit. This team are all trained in psychological first aid and provide support for over 3000 members following the impacts of a critical event or workplace incidents.

“As a first responder, you are normally the ones who are helping and supporting others,” Wade said.

We are very good at putting on our superhero capes and flying out to save the world, but when we return home to our families, we often bring the events of the situation with us, and this can be very challenging.”

“It can be hard for us to stop ask for help, but it is important to know there are services out there for those who need it.”

Wade reflected that peer support is essential in providing all volunteers with psychological first aid due to the nature of the work.

“We have a lot of members who do not work in healthcare on a daily basis, and therefore are not regularly exposed to the critical events we consider ‘the norm’,” he said.

“Volunteers work Monday to Friday and give their time of the weekend. It can be hard for them to stop and really digest what they have experienced.

“We are here to listen, help them process what has happened, and if needed, link to the appropriate health service.”

Wade and his wife Louise

Wade and his wife Louise set up the Australian First Responders Foundation in response to a growing need for mental health support for emergency first responders.

This foundation is a not-for-profit, registered charitable organisation that serves and honours volunteer and emergency First Responders and their families through peer support, education, and wellbeing retreats to ensure their mental health and wellbeing.

“The Australian First Responder Foundation will help keep our emergency First Responders mentally fit and responsive through peer support, education, training, and wellbeing retreats to help them reconnect, recharge and reset.”

“We need to look after our emergency First Responders so that they can continue to look after our communities and us.”

October is Mental Health Month. Staff across the district are ‘tuning in’ and encouraging us all to think about our mental health and wellbeing, regardless of whether we may have a lived experience of mental illness or not.

Find out more about taking care of your own health and checking in with others at mentalhealthmonth.org.au

Help is always available if you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health issue:

Lifeline 13 11 14

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800