Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Imperial community has rallied together to help in the global fight against COVID-19. While staff and academics at Imperial have put their minds together to devise an RNA vaccine and to develop a college-wide COVID-19 testing regime, members of the Imperial College First Aid Society (ICFAS) have been volunteering on the front lines to help save the lives of those afflicted by COVID-19. Within the last year alone, members of ICFAS have volunteered over 500 hours to fight against COVID alongside their ongoing academic commitments.
an “extraordinary experience”, working alongside “a team of passionate and friendly people from both the NHS and St. John Ambulance”
With the advent of the first lockdown on the 23rd March last year, ICFAS members (many of whom are also part of the Imperial St. John Ambulance Student Volunteering Unit) have been volunteering in a plethora of ways to aid in the fight against COVID-19. These students – hailing from a variety of degree courses – stepped up to volunteer on the frontline as the first wave came to a head. Within the wards and departments of hospitals across London, the timely action and tender care of volunteers has saved the lives of patients, both COVID and non-COVID. James, a member of ICFAS studying for his Physics BSc, volunteered in the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department of University Hospital Lewisham. He spent time “carrying out various clinical tasks such as: ECG’s, observations, and comforting unwell patients by talking to them”. Stating that “the experience has taught me an immense amount and it feels amazing to know that I’m doing my part for the NHS”.
Following the approval of the first COVID-19 vaccines in December, members of ICFAS once again responded to a plea for support from a healthcare system in need and volunteered to support the biggest vaccination programme in the UK’s history. Afa, a member of the ICFAS committee and a Microbiology student, recently begun volunteering as a vaccinator at the ExCeL Nightingale facility and described it as an “extraordinary experience”, working alongside “a team of passionate and friendly people from both the NHS and St. John Ambulance”. Unsurprisingly, a vaccination programme of such a large scale demands more than nimble-fingered vaccinators. There is a high demand for tech-savvy volunteers with logistical prowess, patient advocates to take care of nervous patients coming in for vaccines, and interviewers to screen new volunteers. These roles are essential to reaching the target of recruiting over 30,000 new fully trained vaccination volunteers. Students in ICFAS have also stepped up in this capacity, balancing their studies and exams to offer logistical effort. One such volunteer is Wout, who said that during his training so far “all the volunteers and trainers I met at the training have been lovely people.”
The Imperial College community has mobilised on multiple fronts; scientific innovation, donation of equipment and material, and the actions of its students who are stepping onto the frontline. Amongst them are the St John Ambulance volunteers of ICFAS, going above and beyond to help in hospitals, at vaccination sites, and indeed from home. Providing life-saving care, vaccinating the population, and providing logistical support for the national vaccination scheme.
This vaccination project is a long way from completion, and both ICFAS and St. John Ambulance remain keen for new volunteers, regardless of what role they see themselves thriving in and irrespective of previous medical or first aid experience. All they ask for is compassion at this time of global need and a desire to make a difference. To those inspired to join, the link for enrolling with St. John Ambulance is provided below. If you have any questions or want support during your application, the contact details of ICFAS are provided below - they remain happy to provide all the support you need to become a volunteer on the vaccination programme and to make a difference.
Become a vaccination volunteer | St John Ambulance (sja.org.uk)