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“I love my job, it has helped me see how important the role of the NHS is and that the work I do is also valued by others. I am so happy to be working in a job that I love and I really enjoy the variety my job gives me.”

Ryan Gallagher is currently working as a bank porter at Ysbyty Gwynedd during the pandemic. Ryan was part of the Engage to Change Project SEARCH supported internship programme based at Ysbyty Gwynedd in North Wales. Through the programme he gained experience in various roles within the Facilities Department including taking patients to radiology appointments and transporting bloods.Before joining the project Ryan studied animal care and a pre-vocational course in college. While Ryan was keen to find work once he had finished his studies, he was unsure what sort of work he wanted to do. He was receiving support to find work from a local charity that referred him to the Engage to Change Project SEARCH programme. Ryan joined the programme quite late during the summer but when he met the team he said “I felt at ease straight away as the tutor turned out to be my old tutor from college.”

Along with the other interns, Ryan underwent the mandatory training programme in the first few weeks of joining Project SEARCH. He explained:
“It was quite intense. I got to learn different things like manual handling, infection prevention, information governance, dealing with violence and aggression and other things. When we found out which internship we were going to do for the first rotation I was quite nervous but I was lucky enough to get a rotation in one of the areas I had hoped for.”
Ryan’s first rotation was in the radiology department with the portering team, transporting patients from wards to different hospital appointments such as x-rays or MRI scans. “I am quite a shy person and found it quite daunting to begin with. Being faced with patients and people I didn’t know was scary, not to mention trying to navigate myself around the hospital! The radiology team were very supportive and I would go to jobs with one of the other staff members until we both felt I was confident enough to go on my own.”

Despite his initial concerns, after just a couple of weeks Ryan was taking patients on his own. “The team were very supportive. My job coach created a map of the hospital that showed where each ward was and she also came with me to a couple of the jobs to begin with, just to make sure I was comfortable.”

Ryan enjoyed his time with the radiology department and his confidence began to grow, especially when interacting with other people. He told us “I was very sad when it came to the end of my rotation as I knew that this job was something that I really wanted to do. I was always asking questions to the radiology team, trying to get tips on the best way to get a job, could I volunteer to do full shifts and so on. I expressed my interest to the Project SEARCH team in moving to a different area within the portering team as I knew that there were many more things I needed to learn.”

After Christmas the interns began their second rotations within the hospital. Ryan’s new supervisor asked him what he was interested in and together they came up with a plan that made sure he got experience in each different area of portering.

“It was weird because when I first started with Project SEARCH the thought of moving to different areas and not having the same routine every day was enough to scare me. But by now, I was asking for my routine to be changed and I would tell my supervisor I felt ready to do a full shift if they would let me. Between me, the Project SEARCH team and my supervisor we agreed that it would be good experience for me to do a couple of full shifts to experience tasks that I would usually miss out on during the day. I even got to go back to radiology!”

Ryan enjoyed being a porter so much that when he heard there were some jobs available he was keen to apply. “All my colleagues were so supportive and giving me pointers. But when March came around, it was a very weird time. Everything changed, very quickly. Lots of bank jobs were advertised within different areas and I tried for the role as porter and was successfully recruited. I was finally working my dream job!”

He currently works 3-4 shifts a week depending on the demand in each department and he has even covered some shifts at other community hospitals in the area. “I have my first night shift coming up soon, which I am quite excited about. The project has helped me get new skills and develop the skills I already had. I can now talk confidently to other people, even people I don’t know. I never knew the meaning of small talk until I started here! I can work well on my own and I’m starting to enjoy working as part of a team.”

The Engage to Change Project SEARCH team supported Ryan throughout his internship and are continuing to provide support remotely via WhatsApp and video calls each week to check on his progress. His job coach told us about Ryan’s journey to paid employment:
“Ryan is a different person compared to when he first started with us in September. He was quite shy and unsure, always asking 20 questions! He didn’t believe in himself as much as we believed in him. Now he is always looking for room to improve, he always has a goal that he wants to achieve. Ryan has gained such valuable experience from the project, it has helped him prepare for employment and he has also had to overcome some unimaginable challenges during the early stages of his employment, working during this pandemic. Ryan is very resilient and is now raring to give any task a go. We are all very proud of him.”

It is clear that Ryan is highly motivated to achieve his employment goals. He told us, “Outside of working at the hospital I have been working as a part-time kitchen porter and this has helped me get ready for a full time job. My goal is to get a permanent contract to work as a porter at Ysbyty Gwynedd in the future.” With his skills and determination, we are sure that Ryan will one day achieve his goal. Keep up the good work Ryan!