A Clinical Volunteer on the Vaccination Programme – QN Receives a Royal Thank You
2 March 2021 | Helen Kirk QN
I am the Nursing and Midwifery Workforce Lead at Public Health England. I have spent the past 12 months supporting my colleagues through this very challenging pandemic period.
They have all faced testing demands with such a need for their expertise on outbreak response, infection control, and health protection with a new disease. More recently there has also been a growing need for the expertise of PHE’s immunisation teams across the country as we waited for then got new vaccines.
My specialist background is occupational health nursing and I have led many vaccination programmes. I also have a specific interest in the impact of infections in health care workers and represent nursing on the UK Advisory Panel on blood borne viruses. We’ve all seen the consequences of the pandemic on healthcare workers and the people we support in community especially the most elderly.
As soon as the vaccination programme began, I decided to become a clinical volunteer. I don’t work full-time for PHE so could find some time to serve my local community. I needed to refresh my knowledge and prepare for the new vaccine and quickly completed all the relevant training. It’s very straightforward and accessible to all on the e-Learning for Health (eLfH) website. I got in touch with my local pharmacy, Andrews in Macclesfield – it was one of the first community pharmacy vaccination centres in England to go live. A quick interview and a competence conformation and I was good-to-go. I have been doing regular clinics ever since.
His Royal Highness enquired about many aspects of my work and said he appreciated the vital work by nurses in the community and also those who aren’t always so visible in the front line and may not always get much recognitionHelen Kirk
It’s been incredibly rewarding. For many patients this has been the first time they’ve ventured out of the house for months. You can see the anxiety of the patients lift once they have been vaccinated. The benefit to patients is massive – the evidence tell us that for every 160 patients over 80 we vaccinate we protect one life. In addition to lots of older people, including some of my neighbours, there have been many with serious underlying health conditions, as well as health and care workers.
Every clinic has been different but one in February stands out. I had a phone call from HRH the Duke of Cambridge during my clinic.
His Royal Highness was interested in the close teamwork between vaccinators, administrators, and volunteers, and the reaction of patients. He enquired about many aspects of my work and said he appreciated the vital work by nurses in the community and also those who aren’t always so visible in the front line and may not always get much recognition. He seemed genuinely interested and asked me to pass on his thanks to all of you from Catherine and himself. I was the last call of the morning so lucky for me he stayed on chatting far longer than the planned five minutes.
So many people have made our response to the pandemic and our vaccination programme possible. It was a real honour for me but one that the whole team at the Pharmacy and at PHE could share in. When I became a Queen’s Nurse in 2014 I never expected to make it into the Court Circular.
Image by torstensimon from Pixabay