From Student ODP to NHS Vaccinator - working whilst at university


Faculty: Health, Medicine and Social Care
School: School of Allied Health and Social Care
Course: BSc (Hons) Operating Department Practice
Category: Allied and public health

31 March 2022

Jackie in the vaccination marquee

Jackie's Christmas break plans changed when she was recruited to be a COVID vaccinator.

It’s the middle of December and the last week of placement and trimester 1 before my two week Christmas break. Never before have I been looking forward to having a break as much as now. No more getting up at 5.30am, driving to and from placement in the dark whilst battling through the motorway traffic. It’s true what they say, year 2 is really full on. I can’t wait to lie in bed until 8am, pop on some trackie bottoms, do some daytime exercise classes at the gym, watch loads of Christmas TV and maybe eat a few choccies.

That thought was of course, the night before Omicron reared its ugly head and the next wave of infections causing the Mass Vaccination Programme to be swung into action.

Just as Boris finished his state of the nation speech about how we all need to get booster jabs, my phone started going crazy with messages and pleas for help. As a healthcare student I had trained as a vaccinator during the first wave of the pandemic. This involved several face to face training sessions, loads of e-learning and practicing injecting into rubber arms and oranges (I kid you not).

It now appeared that my skills were required once more and my dream of having a relaxing Christmas break might be wishful thinking. The message was that there were literally hundreds of bank shifts that needed to be filled between now and New Year’s Eve, so could I help out?

Before I knew it, I was booked to work 6 and 12 hour shifts every day from the 18th to 24th December and then a few days after Boxing Day.

So I set my alarm clock for 6.30 (a sort of lie in), dug out my ID badge and uniform and got an early night. My first shift was at Chelmsford Racecourse in a huge, unheated marquee. It was so cold you could see your breath, fortunately I had had the hindsight to wear lots of layers. After a quick walk through the site process by the clinical lead, we were assigned our immunisation stations. All NHS bank staff down one side and the Army and RAF medics down the other – this really was all hands to the pump. The aim was to vaccinate around 2-3 thousand people per day.

There was a real buzz in the air, people had been drafted in from all walks of life and I found myself sitting next to a redeployed anaesthetist from the local hospital on one side, an ARU student paramedic on the other and a retired airline pilot behind me. As soon as I mentioned I was a student ODP, the anaesthetist took great delight in explaining to the others what an ODP did and how he wasn’t allowed to work without one. What a great moment for the ODP profession!

The queue of people outside started to form as we organised our vaccine stations and logged on to the computers and at 8.15am the doors opened and people started to file in. The volunteer stewards were brilliant in directing the public to the assessment desks and then to the next available vaccinator whilst all the time cracking jokes and keeping everyone’s spirits up.

It was full on, non-stop jabbing all shift. Everyone was so grateful to be given the opportunity to get their booster and they were all so impressed with how organised it was – well we did have the military there!

At one point I was so busy that I didn’t notice that the blonde lady about to sit down for her vaccine was my best friend Claire. What were the odds of that? We had a good laugh about whether I was sufficiently ‘trained’ to do it, but she said she was so glad it was me as now she can tell people that not only has she had her booster but that she was ‘Jabbed by Jac’ :-)

Jackie and Claire in the vaccination marquee

After 6 hours of solid jabbing I managed to nip outside to the burger van for a free hotdog and a big mug of tea. Never has food tasted so good.

Towards the end of the shift it started to quieten down, so I decided to get a bit creative and made Peter the PPE pigeon. It’s surprising what you can do with a few facemasks, gloves, some cotton wool and syringe covers. Only another seven shifts to go before Christmas!!

That first day we vaccinated 2,658 people, so all in all, not a bad day’s work.

A pigeon made from surgical gloves, masks and cotton wool


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