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COVID vaccine: 12-hour shifts, tears of relief and positive vibes

COVID vaccine: 12-hour shifts, tears of relief and positive vibes

Dr Ian Jackson, Medical Director and Clinical Safety Officer at Refero, shares his experience of volunteering on the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

There has been much discussion about how appropriate some of the training colleagues have to do to become vaccinators. I decided early on that I would just jump through whatever hoops were necessary and made contact with my local Trust and GP colleagues.

COVID vaccine: 12-hour shifts, tears of relief and positive vibes

I am lucky in that I had worked with the lead organisers at both York Teaching Hospital and my local Primary Care Network. I also continue to do some work for the Trust IT Department as Clinical Safety Officer and again this helped with the provision of an nhs.net email that facilitates the online training and registering as a vaccinator on the national database.

The first morning was quite intimidating for someone who had been retired from clinical practice for more than eight years, however the welcome at the Trust vaccination hub was tremendous and soon put me at ease. Again, I was lucky as several former anaesthetic colleagues I knew well were helping and I had soon passed my final assessment and was on my way vaccinating.

To say it was an uplifting experience would be an understatement – initially we were vaccinating Trust staff and staff from the Ambulance Service. Everyone was excited to be having the vaccine, some were emotional, with several having tears or telling me later they had gone home and cried in relief. I have been doing 12-hour shifts in my role, but the time just flies past and the positive vibe from those being vaccinated just keeps you going. However, I admit the first few shifts saw me going to bed early!

As the days past, I was able to take on the Clinical Lead role, allowing my colleagues to concentrate on their day jobs. The team of vaccinators developed over the first week or two, a mixture of retired nurses and midwives with help from other staff either in their spare time or by secondment arrangements. The team now includes a radiographer, physiotherapist, Operating Department Practitioner and mental health nurses.

We are a team – like in theatres we do a group safety briefing every morning where we introduce ourselves and go through any changes in the vaccination guidance, discuss any issues expected for the day and ensure everyone knows where the emergency equipment is. We feel this is important, especially as the hub has space for up to eight vaccinators and we can vaccinate around 750 people a day.

It is important to note the team is much bigger than the vaccinators as we could not function without the volunteers who manage the bookings, the flow of staff through the centre, the recording of vaccinations on the IT system etc. They again are part of the team and we ensure they are included and thanked for every shift they do.

COVID vaccine: 12-hour shifts, tears of relief and positive vibes

The teamwork takes on a new meaning towards the end of every shift. In the hospital we are using the Pfizer vaccine and we try to ensure we waste no doses. The volunteers were early candidates but now some evenings this means walking around the hospital dragging people in, so we don’t waste any! Rest assured they all consent to getting the vaccine – no one is coerced.

Amazingly, this has paid dividends as a number of those have been hard to reach individuals or even needle phobics, who we have been able to persuade to come along and who have confessed they would never have been able to do it if they had to book an appointment.

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February 16th, 2021|
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