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Joseph’s experience with Gateway Pharmacy

20th August 2021

Across Barnet, as part of London’s vaccination rollout in late 2020, a number of Pharmacies opened their doors to community members across the borough as Covid-19 vaccination centres. Their efforts have been incredible! But, without the help, support and outstanding dedication from their volunteers, they wouldn’t have been as successful as they have been. Here’s Joseph’s story; a volunteer at Gateway Pharmacy.

“I am a full-time German and French MA Student at the University of Edinburgh. I’ve always lived in the Borough of Barnet, growing up in both East Finchley and Finchley Central, so I’m definitely a Finchley boy at heart!

What inspired me to volunteer?

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, I really wanted to play my part in helping the NHS and my local community, but with a busy schedule and with moving to Germany in the middle of a lockdown for work, I struggled to do this. When I saw the vaccination centre open at Gateway Pharmacy, I decided to volunteer to help in any way that I could. I didn’t realise at the time that I would enjoy volunteering so much and end up being there pretty much every day of the week, developing close friendships with both other volunteers and members of staff at the centre.  

I first discovered the volunteering role through a friend who directed me towards the Volunteering Barnet website, where I created my profile and signed up for the shifts that suited my available time at the vaccination centre. 

What role(s) did I undertake?

I did a number of different roles at the centre. My initial role was to greet patients in the queue, check them in for their appointments and reassure them about the vaccination process. Inside the centre itself, I helped the admin team with checking in patients on the computer system, writing vaccination cards, cleaning chairs and keeping the queues moving. I also helped to answer the centre’s phone line and assist patients with queries about booking appointments. For these roles, I received training from the centre managers and was buddied with a volunteer that had done the role before so that I could learn how they did it. 

My favourite role, and the role that I eventually did on most days, was to help with the observation of patients waiting for 15 minutes after their vaccination. In this role, I got to chat with people about their daily lives, reassure them and look after patients who needed a bit of extra help at this time. After a long lockdown period and minimal social contact, it was a really nice benefit of the role, allowing me to speak to people. In this role particularly I was able to learn an incredible amount from the medical staff in training to recognise the signs of a reaction or side effects. If I was ever unsure about something, one of the vaccinators was always on hand to offer a helping hand or to answer any questions I might have had myself. Best of all it was such a rewarding role to do to help make someone feel better or simply to reassure them and calm their nerves.

The best outcome of my volunteering experience is…

I never expected when I started to volunteer at the centre that I would become so close to the people I was working alongside everyday. They’re all incredible people and they have been working so hard for so many months now to vaccinate as many people as possible; they deserve all the credit they can get! It really felt like a little family at the Gateway Pharmacy and I will definitely miss working with them! 

Volunteers at the Gateway Pharmacy celebrating Volunteers’ Week 2021; A time to say thanks

It was extremely rewarding to feel like I was playing a part in helping the UK with the Covid19 vaccination rollout, and also simply to reassure someone or help make them feel a little better after their vaccination. Receiving a phone call on the centre’s phone to thank me personally, or a patient dropping by a thank you card in person, really made my day, making me feel like I’d really made a difference. I would recommend volunteering to any of my friends and I hope that more people step forward to help their local community.

Can I sum up my experience in 3 words?

It’s definitely hard to sum up my experience in only 3 words, so I’ve cut it down to 5!

Exciting, rewarding and friends for life. 

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