Michael Portlock is the Support Staff Supervisor for the Portering Department at QEF, He’s worked at the QE Gateshead for the last 27 years. Michael believes that being a porter for many years gives him a unique insight and the opportunity to be a better supervisor to his team, he understands first-hand the pressures of the job and the challenges his team face.
The portering department currently have 50 members in their team, between them they deal with up to 590 jobs a day. To put that into perspective we asked Michael to track how many steps he did in just one shift. It was a staggering 33,092, that's roughly calculated at the equivalent of walking for 12 miles.
I asked Michael if he could tell us about the day to day running of a porter's role, he explained:
“Day to day we are very busy. Especially over the last 2 years of the pandemic, the porter's role has only increased in demand and pressures. The porters are expected to work as efficiently as before but the added steps of PPE and measures put in place to protect not only themselves but the patients from COVID-19 have significantly increased their workload. I think a lot of people just think of portering as moving patients but porters are responsible for anything that is moved within the hospital. The porters deal with patient movements, patient appointments, transporting samples and specimens, mortuary movement, movement of furniture and equipment.
Some aspects of their work is scheduled, but of course emergency situations arise that may require patients to be moved in a matter of minutes. So, it can be a very high-pressured job role. Prioritising tasks can be a hard part of the role, ideally we’d love to get every person to their appointment on time but things do arise. Please just know we are doing everything in our power to try and make this run as smooth as possible day in day out. Patient safety is at the forefront of everything we do, our aim is to get people where they need to be as safely and efficiently as possible.”
Joshua Bowmaker the Interim Portering Manager wanted to acknowledge the hard work and devotion of his team in these unprecedented pressures. He touched on the challenges his team had faced over the last few years.
“I want to make it known how much appreciation I have for the portering team, they’ve worked incredibly hard, amidst a pandemic and with massive staff shortage. Many of the team have been taking on extra shifts because they truly care about the patient experience. It has been a very hard couple of years. It’s incredibly difficult to face the same pressures day in day out and still come to work in the morning and do it all again. They have just knuckled down and got on with whatever has been asked of them, the rough with the smooth. The entire team works incredibly hard, they try their absolute best to get people where they need to be on time but sometimes things are just out of our control. Kindness and patience to our staff means more than you could know.
There's also been a lot of changes internally to our team, our four supervisors have really stepped up to the plate to take on new roles and responsibilities, they were working on the ground as additional support prior to the step up in responsibilities to which they have all adapted to extremely well. Their years of experience as porters has provided them with a wealth of knowledge that has been invaluable to our team. Recognising and developing our staff is something we take great pride in. We want all our staff to be happy at work, we believe if our staff are happy and motivated, they provide a better service, and our patients have a better experience.”
I believe that many people may not realise what a vital service portering is, I asked Michael is there anything you would like to tell readers that they might not necessarily know about your job role?
“I think people may not realise the importance the porters role plays in the patient experience. We are usually the first person someone will see in their visit to hospital. We may be the only face they see for a while, especially with restricted visiting in place. It is vital in our role to be a positive person and to have a good report with your patients. It really can make or break their day. Every time we take on new recruits, I tell them to treat their patients like they would their own family. We aim to always provide a service that we are proud of and that we’d be happy for our own loved ones to receive. Connecting with patients is the best part of our job, it makes all the hard days' worth while. It’s incredibly rewarding to be involved in the patients stay and put our contribution towards a patient's safe recovery. Making someone smile or laugh when there may not be much to laugh about is something I take great pride in. I want our patients to be comfortable here and their stay to be as good as possible.”
I finally asked Michael, for someone who is considering a career in your role what would you say?
“As I’ve mentioned it has its pressures and it’s a physically demanding job, you will always be busy but the benefit of helping people and connecting with people is without a doubt the best part. If you’re a kind compassionate person who loves to be around people then it's an excellent choice for you”