Asha Fowells is a regular writer for Pharmacy Magazine but returned to her pharmacist roots when she trained to be a Covid-19 vaccinator. Here she describes her experiences in the vaccination clinic she works in at Copes Pharmacy in Streatham, South London.
Funny to think how nervous I was a week ago about vaccinating. The mechanics of injecting someone – the thing I was so nervous about having never done it before – are already run of the mill. I’m also settling into a script in terms of getting and conveying all the information I need with patients.
I feel I know the protocols really well, to the point that I’m now able to be the supervising clinician and make decisions about more clinically complex patients with the other vaccinators, all of whom are registered health professionals.
But what has completely taken me by surprise is how incredibly tired I am after a day in the clinic. I’m no slacker when it comes to work ethic – in one of my other roles, I run back-to-back drugs education workshops in schools for teenagers, which aren’t exactly lightweight – but this is another level.
I have to be completely focused all the time, fully engaged with every patient in terms of their personal details and medical history, ready to identify anyone for whom the vaccine may not be appropriate or who needs a bit of extra care. I must address any questions or concerns, then drawing up and injecting – while simultaneously providing a stream of reassurance or distraction, providing follow-up advice and information. And as I thank them for coming in and present them with their all-important vaccination card, in comes the next patient and the cycle starts anew.
What is accounting for my weariness at the end of the day is something I hadn’t fully anticipated: the level of emotion wrapped up in the tiny vials nestling in my cardboard kidney dish. There are many patients who want their picture taken as they have their jab, who laugh with relief when they realise the needle they fear has already been in and out without them feeling anything, or who elbow bump me in sheer joy as they leave at having passed this milestone.
However, there is also a huge amount of grief and sadness: the elderly woman who confides in me that this is the first time she’s left the house for nearly a year; the healthcare worker who cries as she tells me about her previously fit and well father being admitted to hospital and then passing away, alone but for nursing staff, just two days later.
Then there was the man who doesn’t know how he will cope when his wife comes out of hospital as she is so weak after nearly two months in intensive care that she can’t even sit up unassisted; the woman who through her tears tells me she has come in on her way home from her daughter’s funeral...
It is humbling they share their stories with me. It is a privilege to do something so positive after a year that has been so incredibly hard for so many. And so it is definitely “good” tired.
Next entry: March. A month of two halves. Look out for Asha's account on pharmacymagazine.co.uk from Monday April 19