June 25, 2021, by sbzaj1

30 at 30: Vaccinating Nottingham: Healthcare students and staff working together

Once the pandemic hit, I was keen to contribute to the national nursing effort. However, as an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing and parent of young children I instead had to struggle with home schooling and continuing my academic work. Like everyone, I needed to adapt quickly to a totally new way of working and supporting students through a very stressful and scary time. So, when in November 2020 we received an email asking for volunteers for the vaccination effort, I finally had my chance to put my skills to use. Starting in early January until early May, I worked 2 shifts per week at the King’s Meadow campus site in the old central television studio.

I won’t ever forget the feeling when I walked in for first time with a lump in my throat. I felt overwhelmed with emotion at being part of such a fabulous organisational feat; that there was now hope and we were getting a handle on the pandemic. In a very short time the studio had been transformed into a functioning clinical area and a team of committed and skilled professionals had been assembled, several of whom like myself were from the School of Health Sciences.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Working with the public again was wonderful and it is amazing how much you can find out about someone in a very short interaction. Many people were emotional, sometimes tearful, as it was their first trip out in 9 months. During my shifts I have vaccinated and assessed hundreds of individuals including some of my neighbours and friends who happened to book in at the centre. I have dealt with several emergencies and even vaccinated alongside Professor Van Tam, Deputy Chief medical officer. I worked with a range of people from many different backgrounds, some new to healthcare, such as cabin crew as well as colleagues from the armed forces and fire service. When we observed the minutes silence for the year anniversary in March, we could not have been more proud.

In this blog, I also want to also reflect upon the experience of working alongside healthcare students in the vaccine centre. Students from all areas of the faculty have taken the opportunity contribute to the service. This has been a great chance to learn new skills and work alongside qualified professionals from many backgrounds. Overall I have been impressed by the high level of professionalism, efficiency, care and commitment that these students have demonstrated during these shifts.

But, my role as their clinical colleague as well as one of the university staff was sometimes interesting to navigate. During shifts, students often talked to me about issues related to my university role, for example about placement, assignments and problems with other students. Although working alongside them as an equal, there was still a student/tutor type dynamic and I found myself giving advice and support as a university employee. Once the barriers were removed, I also heard candid views about the course and University that I do not believe would have been expressed in other forums and I have been able to take this information forward to improve student experiences.

For the students, I think it meant a lot to them to see us in the role, interacting with the public and role modelling professional behaviour. Getting to know us, not just as academics tucked away in the safety of our offices, but real life health professionals

getting stuck in. One student even went to the effort of saving 2 special commemorative badges that were given out for myself and my colleague, which was very touching. I think that seeing academic staff in frontline roles is important, although not always easy to facilitate.

I will cherish the time I have spent being involved with the mass vaccination programme in Nottingham. It has been hard work but there has been a lot of laughter and fun. It has been incredibly rewarding knowing that I was able to play my small role in beating Covid 19, keeping people safe and protecting the NHS.

Kate Simpson

Assistant Professor – School of Nursing

Posted in 30 Years of Nursing