The Learning and Development team at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) recently received the ‘Supporting Learners Project Award’ at the Learning Matters Health and Care Awards, as part of Health Education England North West, for supporting the way Porters interact with bereaved relatives.
In March 2016 the Learning and Development team and Bereavement Specialist nurses looked at what support and training was being delivered by UHMBT to support porters who are coming into contact with recently bereaved relatives.
A porter is someone who supports patients in hospital by helping them move between different wards. Porters are responsible for taking patients to and from appointments. This role is varied and porters help ensure that hospitals run smoothly.
Ruth Bradburn, Patient Services Manager at UHMBT said; “Some porters were nervous about collecting the deceased. Their fear of not knowing what to say and lack of understanding of what would be helpful in these sensitive circumstances often made the staff wary of interacting with the recently bereaved, which in turn could make a bereaved family feel less supported and even more isolated.
“From the project we wanted porters to feel supported, knowledgeable and confident in their role, and as a result bereaved families would benefit from their understanding and increased sensitivity.”
With this in mind, UHMBT porters received targeted learning sessions around patterns of grief, and information about what support is available for the bereaved families and for themselves within UHMBT. All porters were given the chance to share their experiences and recognise the important role they play in the Trust.
The training was delivered by both a Bereavement Specialist Nurse and the Learning and Development Facilitator with experience of working in a hospice. This meant that any factual and practical issues could be addressed by the nurse while the facilitation, organisation and evaluation of the sessions could be planned by the facilitator. Due to the nature of the sensitive issues involved an integral part of the session was to develop and maintain a safe and supportive environment where staff were able to talk openly about often distressing and emotional issues.
The training has now been expanded and delivered to other staff groups in the Trust, such as Estates, Ward Clarks, Medical Secretaries and Switchboard staff. This learning recognises that non-clinical staff also have an integral role in supporting patients and relatives
Helen O’Neil Learning & Development Facilitator at UHMBT said; “Although our main aim was to increase confidence and knowledge amongst the porters when dealing with the bereaved, we also changed practice on the wards. It refocussed attention on what was actually taking place through assumptions and lack of knowledge and shone a light on how to improve delivery with often very minor adjustments.
“As a result of the training the recently bereaved now receive a more sensitive, empathetic service from non-clinical staff as they have a greater understanding of how to treat the delicate situation.”