‘Like working in the lion’s mouth’.
That’s how I describe being an Urgent Care nurse during the worst health crisis the country has ever seen when people ask, ‘How’s work?’
But after 10 months of staring death in the face as I, and thousands of NHS staff, worked tirelessly in the uphill battle against coronavirus to save as many lives as possible, I’m elated to have finally been given the first dose of the vaccine.
I’m now 52% protected and that gives me an overwhelming sense of relief.
It feels like a reward for our unwavering commitment to the work we’ve had no choice but to get on with. I’ll have to wait 12 weeks to be 95% protected with a second dose but I can’t describe how glad I am to finally have more protection than the flimsy plastic aprons offer.
During the first peak, we were running around like headless chickens, physically suffocated by the sub-standard PPE and mentally by the mounting numbers of admissions. The sweat was literally dripping off us, concealed by the fragile plastic barriers between us and the contagious virus.
When you work on the frontline, it becomes a case of when, not ‘if’ you’ll get it. You go into work thinking, ‘Will this be the day my luck runs out?’ ‘Will I end up on a ventilator?’ ‘Will I pull through?’
They’re all very real and terrifying prospects when you’re regularly confronted by how it ravages people’s bodies – watching patients gasp for breaths as if their life depends on it is not an image you forget in a hurry.
The vaccine has removed our risk of death by simply going to work and that’s a lifeline to me and my colleagues.
The NHS workforce can’t be jabbed soon enough and needs to be at the front of the queue. It’s eased my daily working anxieties ten-fold and is all I could have asked for.
I no longer dread my next shift and there’s huge comfort in the knowledge that the odds are now in my favour.
Our exposure is really heightened and we’re under immense pressure like never before. It’s exhausting beyond anything I’ve ever experienced and I’ve been a nurse for 35 years.
It really does put into perspective how courageous the selfless souls who keep the NHS running are. We don’t want your applause, we want you to follow the rules so we can all emerge from this sooner rather than later.
People close to me have lost their lives saving other – friends, as well as colleagues, who’ve died doing what they’d dedicated their lives to – and it drives home how vulnerable you are.
It makes me very sad that their deaths, and thousands more, could’ve been avoided if the vaccine had been available just a few weeks earlier.
It’s a miracle I’ve so far avoided contracting Covid-19 and I’m hugely grateful I’ve been given my first shot. My NHS trust has been fantastic in rolling this out.
Once fully vaccinated, we still have to wear full PPE, which is something we’re used to now but never gets any more comfortable. The vaccine is by no means license to drop our guard – for NHS staff and the public, alike.
No one should assume that it is.
But the mental impact on my daily working life post-vaccine is priceless. We’re relieved of the anxiety that we could die just by doing our jobs.
This reassurance is shared by my colleagues – staff have broken down in tears on receiving their vaccine appointments. It will change our lives for the better.
No amount of training can prepare anyone for the dire straits the NHS currently finds itself in. It’s imperative staff are prioritised for the vaccine in order to prevent the NHS completely collapsing as admissions continue to grow at an uncontrollable pace.
The Government desperately needs to ramp up the vaccine programme – using schools, car parks, any spaces they can as vaccination hubs.
I’m so adamant that it’s the only possible way out of this crisis that I’m coming out of semi-retirement to help the national effort in vaccinating as many people as quickly as possible.
I’m willing to take on extra hours if needs be and I urge everyone who’s offered the vaccine to get it.
Until then, stay home to protect the NHS and save lives.
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