Island Health Porters make a difference to patient care

Whether helping to move equipment, vital supplies and specimens where they are needed most, or ensuring patients are in the right place at the right time to get the care they need, hospital porters are the heartbeat of Island Health hospitals. 

The most significant aspect to a porter’s job is patient care. Porters spend a great deal of time with patients as they move them around the hospital, for example, from the operating room to a patient ward or between tests and procedures. A Patient Porter may take the same patient multiple times over a few days or weeks and often become a source of companionship to them. “We are their comfort,” said Carol Martens, a Patient Porter who works at Royal Jubilee Hospital. “Patients tell me about themselves and who they are outside their illness. Patients are understandably anxious about their health or their procedure, and porters become their companions, keeping them company and often helping to calm their anxieties.” 

John Dickie, an Inter-Facility Porter at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, makes eight trips per day driving patients from Dufferin Place long-term care home to their renal dialysis appointments at the hospital. He transports the same patients on a regular basis, so he gets to know them well. “I have immense pride in what I do, and I believe that I make a small difference to our senior patients during our routine travel from their retirement home to the hospital,” Dickie said. “I like making them laugh so their outing is more enjoyable. Some of them don’t like to wear masks and I tell them we have to hide their good looks so the doctor doesn’t hit on them.” 

Materiel Porters safely move medical equipment, such as heart monitors and IV pumps, and keep the equipment safe, disinfected and functioning. They also deliver blood and transport specimens. Lorie Caron is a Materiel Porter who has worked at the Campbell River Hospital for many years, both as a house keeper and a porter. “I really like the variety of my porter job. I can be delivering emergency blood from the blood bank one minute and the next I am picking up a specimen from endoscopy and delivering it to the lab,” she said. “What I really love is that I feel appreciated and respected by all of the medical staff at the North Island Hospital, Campbell River.” 

Although porters may have specific roles and duties, they are very versatile and often help each other when they are busy. Job requests that are linked to Cerner come to the porter’s phone in priority order through a tele-tracking system. When the job is complete, the next request arrives. If a Materiel Porter is swamped with medical equipment requests, a Patient Porter might step in to help.

“The work of our porters varies widely and is essential to maintaining the smooth running of our small hospital,” said Juanita Wells, Logistics Supervisor at North Island Hospital, Comox Valley. “We supply a service, to move patients and things, and ensure all equipment is sanitized and in good working order. It is a very fast-paced job but our team is really connected and works well together to manage all of the requests.” 

Porters cover a lot of ground in a day, often logging 10-15 km per shift. Silvia Erickson is a Mailroom Porter at NRGH and distributes mail to every department in the hospital, twice per day. “There is the beneficial healthy side to my job where I regularly walk 20,000 steps in a day,” said Erickson, who’s been in her current role for seven of the 24 years she’s worked at the hospital. “It felt like exercise when I first started, but now it’s very routine and feels like breathing. Even though we are on a time crunch to get all of the mail delivered, it’s wonderful to be able to interact with staff from every hospital department.” 

Island Health is fortunate to have such a strong and versatile team of porters to help meet our patient care needs at our hospitals. They play a critical role in providing care and comfort to people at some of the most challenging times in their lives. If you want to know where to find sanitized, working equipment or how to get from point A to B the quickest, simply ask a porter!