As I have been asked about the vaccinator role, I thought I would write a blog about it, about my journey along the volunteer route and where it is heading.
I was introduced to St Johns Ambulance at the age of 11 when I joined a local group as a cadet. After 7 years, earning my grand prior badge (similar to queens scout), and establishing a badger sett (St Johns for younger children), I left for university, little did I know it would reappear in my life many years later.
During lockdown 1, my husband and I, along with countless others, volunteered as NHS volunteer responders. When vaccinations started coming into the forefront, we were offered the opportunity to volunteer for vaccination roles with St John Ambulance through the NHS responder contacts. We relished the opportunity, to try and bring a hastier conclusion to lockdown, to prevent as many deaths and serious illnesses as possible and to be honest, to get out of the house and feel useful. The NHS have done such a wonderful job, I cannot praise them enough and in this way, I hoped to be able to help them.
This decided, we both signed up, we received an email asking us to fill in an application form. This form was the same one used for ‘proper’ job applicants, with a full education and work history, interests and references.
Next step was an interview, which was live but online for obvious reasons. The numbers volunteering were in the thousands, so St John Ambulance had a big task. The interview was about half an hour in duration, we were asked questions about showing compassion, being inclusive and taking somebody’s particular needs into consideration. We both passed and continued to training.
The first mode of training was online, we studied and were assessed on emergency first aid, data protection, consent, safeguarding, lifting safely, fire safety and care through St Johns Ambulance, then NHS training on vaccinations in general, then specifically AstraZeneca and Pfizer, anaphylaxis, and working during Covid. Each module was about an hour in duration and each had an assessment that you had to pass with at least 87%.
Face to face training was next, we got to leave the house! We joined a training centre in Lincoln, the closest to our home and from 9am to 5pm Saturday, put into practice our training, overseen by St John Ambulance. This addressed any concerns and through role paly and examples we could see worst case scenarios. What came to light was that although we were trained online how to draw up the vaccine, this would not be required in practice, a qualified health care professional would draw up the vaccine, we just need to double check the dose and ensure there are no air bubbles (don’t worry even if there were these would not hurt you (unless it was a couple of needles full!) – that is a myth). We practiced on rubber arms (injection site is the deltoid muscle in the upper arm) and practised handwashing techniques and the donning and doffing of PSE, the number of disposable gloves we got through was startling.
Everyone I have met on our journey to volunteering for the vaccinations with St John Ambulance has been kind, friendly and extremely capable of their duties.
I have the t-shirt, I have my vaccinator passport signed off, I have spoken to my patch lead and now await the call. I will be working in Boston, although this is almost an hour away from home it is the nearest centre where St John Ambulance have been asked to help, and I am sure it’s worth the travel.
We work in pairs at a vaccinator station, taking it in turns to inject and to do the sanitising, so there are always plenty of eyes, we are overseen by a health care professional, and a doctor oversees the venue. We may also take turns at welcoming citizens and answering their questions and concerns, and at post vaccine care. Citizens are asked to sit in the post care section for 15 minutes so we can ensure they do not have any adverse reactions to the vaccines.
So there we are, ready to go, it is not too onerous, we have had training and are closely supervised, especially at first, please do not worry that Joe Bloggs may be delivering your vaccine, if he is, he will have been well trained and closely watched. It’s a race against time (and Covid) and it is not only protection for ourselves that we need to get vaccinated but for everyone else. Do your bit and when asked, pull up your sleeve.