THE PORTER WHO LIGHTS UP A HOSPITAL
Sometimes small gestures mean so much. The friendly smile when you feel down, the non judgemental friend when you need to talk. John works as a night porter and provides both these gifts with ease.
The sun sets behind the rolling hills surrounding Blackburn as we meet John in the cafe at the Royal Blackburn Hospital before his shift.
He’s been based here for 15 years working the majority of his time as a night porter. The job involves a lot of patient and family contact, something John loves. “Whenever I’m moving someone I’ll always talk to them straight away, introducing myself and letting them know what’s going on because it’s those first ten seconds that are the most important.” We move from the cafe up to the third floor and John acknowledges everyone we pass, making sure anyone who gets on the elevator knows exactly where they are going, greeting each individual with a big smile. I asked if he ever has gloomy days when he doesn’t feel like engaging. “No,” he says instantly. “I love my job. I love people, everyone is an individual and I accept them for who they are. I know that no matter how I feel, people in hospital will be feeling worse. They are in here for a reason and if I can make their stay a little better then I will.”
His personal approach and friendly nature is one that has been recognised by many, from people on the street to organisations that have provided him with various honours and awards. John said, “I was on the bus the other day and a chap said, ‘I remember you. You helped my dad when he was in the ‘Royal’. Thanks for that mate.’ Those things mean a lot you know. I’m not a nurse or a surgeon performing life-saving procedures, but when people remember you that’s really nice.” He has also recently been presented the coveted Kate Granger Award for Compassionate Care. This came about for a number of reasons but one important area is his work with the hospital’s Bereavement Steering Committee (B.S.C.).
Moving people who have passed away is a part of the job that he takes very seriously. “When my mum passed away my sister said, ‘She can’t go to Heaven on her own’, so we put a cuddly toy next to her. Now when I take a child down to the mortuary I always like them to have a cuddly toy and I never forget to say, ‘Goodnight, God bless’. It’s important to treat people with dignity and respect at every stage that they are in our care.” This thoughtful nature has seen John take a large role in the B.S.C. His input has helped shape the service, improve the opportunity for counselling and has led to the introduction of bereavement suites for the families. Over the years he has talked to lots of families that have lost loved ones. He says, “I’ve lost people very dear to me over the years and it’s hit me hard, so I treat everyone the same as I’d like to be treated.”
John worked previously as an engineer at Lucas Aerospace for 20 years before making the move to the NHS. He told us that “Being an engineer was fine but the last 15 years working here has flown by. I love it.” The pride he takes in his job and the smiles he carries with him every day is commendable. The little time we spend with him gives us a tiny glimpse of the work he does and the lives he touches. It goes to show that little gestures like a smile can be so important. In a job that can often go unnoticed in a large hospital, John shines like a bright light.