The Only National Awards For Non-Medical / Non-Clinical NHS Staff & Volunteers

Day in the life of an NHS Hospital Porter

3rd November 2022

Porters are, in many ways, the heartbeat of NHS hospitals. These crucial members of staff are vital to the smooth running of the NHS. Responsible for moving important items and people around the hospital, Porters’ interactions can make all the difference in making patients feel cared for. 

At the Unsung Hero Awards, we recognise the hard work and dedication of Estates and Ancillary staff members across the country. That’s why we have a specific award category, dedicated to those who work in this field.

One such person is Karen Shields, who is a Hospital Porter for NHS Borders. Karen won the Everyday Hero Award Ancillary in 2019, and we caught up again with her recently to find out more about her role. In this blog post, we get an insight into what a typical working day looks like for Karen.

How do you start your day?
I rise at 6:30am every morning, Monday to Friday. I cannot eat first thing in the morning when I get up, but my daily walk to work gives me an appetite. By the time I get to the hospital, which takes about 40 minutes, I’m ready for my breakfast.

What is the first thing you do when you arrive at work?
Just before 8:00am, I arrive at the hospital. First, I get changed, before heading to the office to grab a work phone and radio. I then go for my breakfast, before starting work at 8:30am.

How do you organise your day and talk me through your morning and afternoon tasks?
The first thing I do in the morning is head over to the mortuary, as I’m a Mortuary Attendant/ Porter. I carry out the daily tasks, including dealing with undertakers throughout the day, and facilitate viewings when requested.

As a Porter, jobs come onto the system throughout the day; I click on the job and carry out the tasks, which could be anything from taking patients for an x-ray or moving them to different wards. The day is always very fast-paced, with never a dull moment! My day is very busy!

How do you spend your lunch break? 
This is the quickest half hour of the day. Whilst eating lunch, I play a word game. Then it’s back to all my tasks!

How do you unwind after work?
I have a horse, and I love to go out on a hack with my daughter at the weekends, depending on the weather. Our horses keep us very busy. I also go to darts on a Tuesday night after work, and I play for a local pub in my area. I don’t mind if I win or lose, as I just like playing the game. I love listening to native American music too, as it’s very therapeutic for the mind. As well as this, I have dogs and a cat at home. I walk the dogs after work, and then it’s tea time for us all. After that, I can chill and relax for the night.

What’s the best part about your job?
I love being able to help people. My job is very satisfying because I like being able to help patients and put their minds at ease. If they are scared or unsure, I talk them through what they are going to get done, whether it’s an x-ray, CT, or MRI scan. I try to make them relax a bit by talking to make them feel better. My job in the mortuary is most important, as I am dealing with families coming to view their loved ones. During their time of need, I talk to them, answer questions if asked, and guide them on what to do next. Sometimes I give them a cuddle, if I think it is going to help. I take great pride in this part of my job.

What’s the most challenging part about your job?

As a Porter, most days the jobs come in thick and fast, and departments need the tasks to be done quickly. We give it our all and can only do one job at a time, but we always get there in the end.

Tell me about one thing you’ve done at work that you are proud of?
In the mortuary, I deal with all ages and circumstances. This part of the job is very sensitive. Therefore, you need to be caring and dignified at all times. A member of staff nominated me for the Unsung Hero Award in 2019, and it made me very proud to win the Everyday Hero Award Ancillary, especially as I am still the only Scottish winner. This was a big achievement and a proud moment for me. 

If you could tell people one thing about being a Porter, what would you want them to know?
Being a Porter is a very busy job. If you need a Porter, please be patient. We do our job to the best of our ability, we get there in the end, with a smile, and are always eager to help. 


This blog hopefully highlights why it is so important to shine a light on our non-medical NHS staff. The Unsung Hero Awards were established in 2015 to promote and celebrate these people, as well as volunteers.

Did you find this blog interesting? Read A Day in the Life of a Receptionist

Headline Sponsor

max20 logo

Event Sponsors