Where do I start?! After retiring from the NHS five years ago I didn’t anticipate walking through the doors of Oakley Road again but that’s exactly what I did at the beginning of February this year for my first shift [as a volunteer].
In my more than 30 years in the NHS, firstly as I microbiologist and then ‘on the dark’ side i.e. in management, I never experienced anything like a pandemic so felt I wanted to help out if I could. Isn’t it amazing that one of the worlds smallest known things has almost stopped the world in its tracks? Fascinating if it wasn’t so inconvenient!
As ever, sometimes it’s not what you know but who you know, as a friend of mine was working for Solent NHS Trust and suggested volunteering with them on their Vaccination Programme, so that’s how it came to be that I was walking into Oakley Road on that chilly February day.
The first thing that struck me was how well organised everything was – it was quite hard to remember what the rooms used to be as the transformation from office space to clinical space was so well done. After an induction and orientation I was asked to help people through the system; it was so nice to speak to the members of the public who were coming to be vaccinated, for a lot of these people it was the first time they’d been out of their home for nearly a year. The sense of positivity within the centre was palpable.
Since that first day in February I have settled into a regular Monday slot, doing two shifts from 8am until 12pm and 12pm until 4pm. I have worked in both ‘Pods’ (there are two vaccination pods at Oakley Road) and I've done most of the indoor marshal roles, reception duties (you do dream about the questions you ask….), directing between reception, assessment and vaccination, as well as observing post-Pfizer vaccine. I hate to think how many chairs I’ve sanitised.
After a couple of months and some studying (something I thought I’d left way behind) I passed assessment so that I can now vaccinate people, I feel this is such a privilege to be able to contribute in this way.
As a final observation my experience of volunteering at Oakley Road is overwhelmingly positive, I very much feel part of a team doing an amazing thing – how can you not feel proud to be contributing to helping us back to normality. Thank you Solent for letting me help!