Robert Collins has been a porter in NHS Wales for 53 years and despite recently celebrating his 70th birthday, he’s got no plans to retire his blue uniform anytime soon.
“I enjoy coming to work” is his reply to friends when they ask why he’s still going, it’s as simple as that.
Rob started as a porter in 1970 at Pen-y-Fal Hospital in Abergavenny. Coming from the pits, he found his first day as a porter a bit intimidating.
Lucky for Rob, his mum made him go back for his second day and he hasn’t looked back since. Being a porter “was my calling from day one”, he added.
After Pen-y-Fal, Rob moved to Tredegar General Hospital in Blaenau Gwent and in 2010 transferred to the new Ysbyty Aneurin Bevan Hospital in Ebbw Vale where he still works today, taking care of patients and inspiring his colleagues.
Porters are vital members of the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB) team providing essential services to support clinical staff.
Transporting patients throughout the hospital, delivering posts and parcels to wards, transporting food trolleys, picking up and delivering blood samples for pathology and medicine for pharmacy, and sorting ward waste, they support every aspect of the daily running of Gwent hospitals.
As Tracey Cullen, a Support Officer at Ysbyty Aneurin Bevan said, “The porters are the unseen cogs within the hospital, without them the service could not function”.
With such a wide variety of duties, it’s no surprise to hear that Rob covers long distances every shift.
“We do anything from seven miles a day upwards, so there is no need to go to the gym at the end of the day!” he Rob.
For Rob, his favourite part of being a porter is the difference he can make to a patient’s time in hospital.
His genuine care for the patients and passion for what he does is evident as he consistently goes the extra mile.
“During Covid, myself and my colleagues, we’d take the visitors round outside”, said Rob.
“I’d go up to the ward and say to the visitors, now mum is at that third window across, and they’d wave to their mum.
“It was a moving experience”, he added. “They sent a little letter in thanking us and I thought, oh gosh, I’ve helped a little bit”.
Being a good porter takes compassion and patience. A friendly smile and little chat can go a long way for patients who are nervous about a procedure or worried about test results.
Reflecting the attitude of all ABUHB porters Rob said, every patient “could be a member of my family, so I treat them as hopefully my family will be treated”.