Working as a hospital Porter
I have been working as a hospital porter in a hospital in Liverpool in the UK for about 6 months. All my experiences are with this one hospital, and from talking to other porters. It's a good job to get for the holidays if you're studying, or don't have other qualifications for whatever reason. I'm studying part time while I work here, and it really works well, it's not really physically draining(anymore), it's actually quite interesting, since you do different things and talk to different people all day, and there's quite a bit of time to read my coursework.
Types of Porter
Chargehand - The Chargehand is basically the supervisor, he answers the phone, sends people out on jobs, calls the shift engineer when something is broken, and generally makes sure everything is running smoothly. Chargehands are on shifts, so if you're a day man like me, they change every week or so. Different chargehands have different styles, so one might just sit in the chair all day and give the jobs out, whereas there are a few who go out on jobs themselves. This is actually quite annoying, as it leaves whoever is in the room(usually someone trying to eat their lunch) to answer the phone and deal with irate hospital staff.
Certain wards or departments
are busy enough to have a porter assigned specifically
Assessment Units. There are three assessment wards in my hospital(SAU, MAU, HAC), they're basically a temporary ward where patients go when they come through Accidents and Emergencies. They stay for a few hours or a few days, and then they transfer to a 'real' ward somewhere in the hospital. Each one has their own porter(more than one at certain times of day), who takes the patients to their new ward in a wheelchair, or a bed. These porters will also do other things for the wards, such as changing oxygen bottles, taking bloods to the labs, or going to the pharmacy.
Endoscopy - The endoscopy unit do a LOT of procedures in one day, both outpatients and inpatients. The outpatients usually walk in and walk out when they're finished, but the inpatients have to be fetched from their ward in a wheelchair, taken back on an operating bed, and transferred back onto their own. A lot of people say that endoscopy is the hardest portering job, since he is walking around literally all day(they almost always have more people on the list than they can possibly do in one day). I think MAU is the worst, since all the staff are so horrible.
Fracture Porter - Takes people back and forth from the Fracture clinic. He works the room normally, but he has a bleep for when the fracture clinic needs to get hold of him.
Labs - When a patient needs a test, they have a sample taken, and put in a bag with a form attatched to saying what type of test needs to be done. Certain types, usually blood samples, need to get to the labs fairly quickly, so the hospital has a pod system, where the doctors can send things zipping through the chutes, and they arrive at the labs almost instantly. Sadly, the system breaks just about every day and has to be fixed, so there's a number that the wards can bleep, and a labs porter will come and physically pick up the sample.
Some types of sample, like urine and saliva, do not need to get to the labs urgently, so they are put in a bread bin somewhere on the ward, and the labs porter comes around in the morning and collects them.
Other things lab porters do:
Mail men - They sort out all of the mail that comes to the hospital, and deliver it. There are 3 of them, and they know every doctor in the hospital, and where to take his mail to off the top of their head. They also drive the little three-wheeled orange mail van to take mail to the outbuildings
General Porters - There are 2 or 3 porters who just wait in the porters room, and do whatever jobs come in. Mostly, they do transfers in chairs, when people are going home, or going somewhere for a test. Sometimes they do bodies if there's no-one else available.
Shift men work a rotating shift, so they do a week of earlies, a week of lates, and a week of nights. Shift men get overtime pay for when they work nights or weekends, plus they get extra pay just for being on shifts, so they make a lot more than day men.
Shift men's duties are:
- Collecting rubbish bags and laundry bags from all the wards.
- Take bedpans and bottles to the wards when they need them.
- Collect bodies from the wards, take them to the mortuary, put them in the fridges, and sign them into the log book.
- Take the meal boxes to all of the wards, and collect them when the wards are finished.
When they're not busy with their duties, they work the room
The shift men
also get milk
, sugars, bread and teabags so the rest of us can have tea, since they're friends with the kitchen girl
s. They also get free meals
in the evening.
- Easy - I spend a lot of the day just sitting in the porter's room, drinking tea, doing the crossword, reading, etc. No-one tells me I should be working, or gets upset, we have to wait for jobs to come in, and if none come in, we don't have anything to do. It's also fairly autonomous - I am on the labs, so I go off and do my rounds three times a day. No-one checks up on me or asks where I was or anything, as long as the job gets done and there's no complaints, no-one bothers you.
- In the warm - Most people arrive at this job after working in factories or on construction sites, and it's really nice to be out of the English weather every day.
- Meet People - Hospitals are full of nurses, auxies, ward clerks, housekeepers, etc. who I see every day. A lot of the time, I have to talk to them, which helps, because I'm not good at talking to people when I have no excuse.
- Cheap Accommodation - I live in the hospital flats, on the grounds. They're a lot cheaper than regular accommodation would be, I've got a nice big room, and I don't have to sit on the train or bus to get to work, so I also save money there.
- Staff Discount - I get a discount at the canteen, which does some really good vegan(ish) meals. This is really useful, since I live on the grounds, so I can go to the canteen instead of the chippy.
- Keep Fit - I walk around a lot during the day, and I also go up and down stairs all day.
- Easy to Get - Porters start off working for an agency, you don't need any experience, just 2 years references, and a bank account and NI number, the typical stuff for getting any job in the UK. Every so often, our managers will have interviews for whatever jobs were being filled by agency staff, and then they can apply for them, and get a contract.
- Practical Jokes - with all that free time, porters find other ways to get through the day. After a few weeks as a porter, you will find your wits sharpened to a razor's edge. Is that an empty chair, or is it a suspiciously empty chair, with some disgusting substance on it? Is there someone lying in wait in that mortuary box? You'll never be sure.
- Snappy Nurses - Nurses can be really unfriendly, especially if the ward is very busy, and they get pissed off with us for things that are completely out of our control. They'll just ignore you and keep talking to each other, and you have to interrupt them. Certain wards are worse than others, and a lot of the staff are really nice, but there are a lot of bad apples.
- Pay - When you start as a temp, it's minimum wage, and if you get a contract, the pay goes up a bit, and then if you get onto shifts, it goes up a bit more, but it's still not great(it is a job where you need no qualifications, after all). Porters who work shifts and do a lot of overtime can get about £16-18 k a year
- Almost no career progression - Porters can potentially advance from Temp → Days → Shifts → Chargehand → Manager, but really the difference between them in terms of pay is very very little. Most shift men make more than their chargehand, since they do more overtime, and there's only one manager, so you'd have to wait 20 years for him to retire, then fight with 30 other porters for the job.