Image of Katie Ambrose standing in front of a house

Finance officer, choral singer, vaccine volunteer

Katie Ambrose, who works in our finance office and sings in the College choir, shares her experience of volunteering as part of the UK's National Health Service (NHS) nationwide vaccination rollout.

Since COVID-19 vaccinations began in late 2020, an army of volunteers has stepped up to help the NHS at GP practices and vaccination hubs throughout the UK. Several members of College staff are among them, including Finance Officer Katie Ambrose. 

We interviewed Katie about how she started volunteering, her most memorable moments from working in a vaccination hub, and what she's learned from the experience.

How long have you been at Jesus, and what do you do here?

I joined Jesus College in September 2020 to work in the finance office, mostly focused on student billing. I am became a member of the College choir at the beginning of the academic year, singing soprano.

Which vaccination hub do you volunteer at, and how did you come to be part of the team?

I’m volunteering at Cornford House Surgery, which covers a number of GP practices in the area. I learned about the volunteer team through an advert posted on a Facebook group called Cambridgeshire Mutual Aid. This was set up during the first lockdown to help provide support for those in need. Someone from the clinic posted that they needed help during the first weekend of vaccinations, and I signed up.

I'm part of a group of volunteers who sign up for shifts on a week-by-week basis, as the vaccine supply doesn’t always arrive on the same day each week. As the weeks go by, you start to see more and more familiar faces. Those of us volunteers who are working on a regular basis are starting to form bonds and work really efficiently together.

What does a typical volunteer shift involve?

I usually work on meet and greet, but we have volunteers to run car-parking too. On my first couple of shifts, I was on the main exit for patients who’d had their vaccine. You have to have someone standing by the exit as there are a couple of steps to come down, and most of patients (particularly in the first few days) were quite elderly. The elation on their faces as they came out after receiving their vaccine was such a joy to behold.

A lot of patients haven’t spoken to people in weeks, and just like having someone to talk to. During my last couple of shifts I have been signing in patients who have mobility issues. I've really enjoyed this, because it’s about making sure people are warm and comfortable as they wait outside for their vaccine.

Most people waiting to be vaccinated like to have a chat, but sometimes they need calming down. They might be nervous about having the jab, or about being around lots of people after a long time. The work then becomes a combination of making sure things are running smoothly, that people are being seen as quickly as possible, and that people are feeling OK about what could otherwise be a stressful process.

How long do you expect to continue volunteering?

As long as I have the time in my week, I will keep doing it. The shifts are three hours long, so it’s very manageable to do at least once, if not twice, a week.

What have you learned from your volunteering?

The most important thing I’ve learned is that local communities are amazing. There are excess volunteers for almost every shift, and everyone is just so kind and eager to help.

My overriding feeling every shift is excitement. It’s so amazing to see the numbers of people being vaccinated. The more this happens, the closer we are to the end of self-isolation and shielding for older members of our communities. The idea that some of these people are close to being able to see their families after nearly a year is amazing.

What has been the most memorable moment so far?

On my first day, there was a lady who hadn’t been out in weeks because she’d had a fall. She grabbed my arm as she was coming down the stairs, and wouldn’t let go until she got to the observation tent. When she finally sat down, she looked so relieved and full of hope. That was when I realised quite how important the work of everybody who has got us to this point is.

Who is currently coming along to be vaccinated?

There’s been a noticeable progression from the over-80s in the first week, to the over-70s group and now we're seeing the clinically vulnerable as well.

Do you have any advice for people coming along to get their vaccination?

Please do turn up for your appointment when it’s scheduled, where possible. The clinicians and doctors are working hard to make sure the right number of vaccines are prepped each day, so it’s important that people turn up to use the doses. It’s also very cold at the moment, and you may have to wait outside, so wrap up warm. I’ve been wearing four jumpers each shift!

If someone is worried about being vaccinated, what would you say to them?

It’s okay to be nervous, as vaccinations can seem a bit scary to some people, and if you’re not used to being round lots of people at the moment it can be a bit overwhelming. However, we’re working hard to make the experience as comfortable as possible, and will be on hand to help and reassure throughout. The doctors and nurses are incredible, and it’s awe-inspiring even to be on the fringes of the work they’re doing.