04th March 2016 Written by Steve Hartman, porter Worcestershire Royal Hospital - Endoscopy

Image: Steve Hartman.My experiences as a deaf porter – bringing comfort to patients who are unable to hear

When I went deaf I had been running my own business. It was very stressful work, but to then find out I was going to go deaf, more stress piled on. I couldn’t run my business anymore because of losing my hearing, but needed an income to help with the costs involved in the studying I was having to do to overcome the difficulties involved in communication, such as lip reading and learning sign language. Later this income helped to pay for my teaching degree.

I’ve always got on well with people and saw a vacancy at my local hospital for a general porter. Plenty of exercise, walking miles and meeting new people every day; straight away, I loved it!

It wasn’t long before I became passionate about issues affecting deaf people and I realised that the hospital wasn’t very deaf-friendly. I decided to do something about it and approached the education department to put on deaf awareness sessions and soon started teaching level one and two BSL.

I quite often got called to different departments in an emergency situation, where it is not possible to get an interpreter at short notice. Once, I found myself paddling in blood in the A+E department, communicating for a deaf patient who had been trapped under pile of wooden boards. The staff needed to know urgently where the pain was, whether he had any allergies and when he last ate, before he was whisked off to theatre.

I was often called to the wards to communicate for inpatients and doctors rounds when interpreters had not shown up. I have accompanied patients into scans and MRIs to sign to patients when to hold their breath and when to let go, in order for the scan to be successful.

Deaf patients who end up in hospital for extended stays can get pretty isolated if they have no-one to communicate with and discuss everyday relatively minor day to day issues. When I found such a patient, I would make sure I visited them regularly for a chat.

I have had loads of feedback from both colleagues and patients. When I left the Essex hospital the communications department produced a special edition of the monthly new magazine as a “Sorry You’re Leaving’ card, which included comments from staff in several different areas of the Trust. 

I have been a porter for 10 years now and still love every day.

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