By the third lockdown I think everyone felt pretty down, uninspired and uncertain. One thing which did keep people’s morale up though was (and still is) the vaccination roll-out. I was getting pretty bored of just staring at a screen all day and wanted something to do so when I heard volunteers were needed to help out in the vaccine centres I jumped at the chance. I started volunteering in February through the NHS Responders as a steward. On my first shift it felt like I was entering another world: talking and being around loads of people and seeing the vaccinations take place seemed pretty surreal. I helped guide people around the centre, talked to people and made sure they were okay and assisted the staff. I came away from it feeling more fulfilled than I have in a long time.
I then started volunteering in a bigger site which had an amazing community of volunteers and the atmosphere was so welcoming and positive. At this site there were lots of volunteers and we went through different Covid checks when people arrived and helped with registration. It felt great to be part of a team, learn new skills and be able to meet new people. You really do meet every kind of person in a vaccine centre: some are so excited and are kind enough to bring cakes and cards for the staff, others are very nervous and need lots of reassurance. Volunteering definitely helped me get through the last term and it kept me optimistic in getting life back to normal.
I am also a volunteer vaccinator with St John Ambulance. I was pretty apprehensive to apply as I had never done anything like that before but it was too much of an exciting opportunity to miss. I had to do several modules on online training learning about the vaccine, vaccine legality and vaccine administration. I then had a day of in person training where we learnt first aid, how to deal with anaphylaxis and different patients and we practiced vaccinating. On my first shift I shadowed a nurse and kept asking her lots of questions. Although it was kind of nerve-wracking doing it for the first time, the training we receive is so in-depth and the people working with you are incredibly knowledgeable that you feel confident and comfortable with the task in hand.
I started vaccinating at Bolden House in Durham a few weeks ago. The staff there are all amazing and I feel very fortunate to be able to work alongside them. I feel very privileged to be able to give people the vaccine but, like all Covid-19 related things, it has become pretty normal. Everyone wants to care for those who come through the door and get as many vaccinated as possible. I think the thing I’ve learnt the most is how important empathy is. You don’t know how someone is going to be when they walk through the door and it’s important to understand their perspective and their needs. It’s been great to see how the ages of those being vaccinated keep dropping down and it’s amazing to me that university students will soon all be vaccinated.
This experience has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done and it’s made me respect and admire those who work in the NHS and healthcare even more. I would encourage everyone to volunteer at the vaccine centres if they are interested and get the vaccine when it becomes available to you!
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