The coronavirus pandemic is perhaps the pandemic of the twenty-first century. If I were to share a story with my future grandchildren, I would tell them about the time that I served and fought on the frontline of this virus outbreak that claimed the lives of millions and changed this world forever.
I was a student nurse in the second year of my degree when the coronavirus first broke out in Wuhan, China in December 2019. By January 2020, it had reached Australia’s shores.
Victorians had to follow the advice and regulations of our health department and government, and nurses and physicians were in demand at all Victorian hospitals to combat this deadly and frightening coronavirus.
One solution to fight the spread of this virus was mandatory vaccination, and this is where I came in, working as a registered undergraduate student of nursing—RUSON—to administer vaccinations. I was not yet a registered nurse but I was given an important role to play. I was given training modules to complete but only one practical training day on administrating the three different vaccines that were available at that time.
I felt a sense of pride and duty waking up each morning for my shifts. The large hospital where I was employed had various pop-up hubs set up for the sole purpose of vaccinating the community. Horse-racing courses and shopping centres were also turned into COVID-19 vaccination centres.
The goal of our state was to get ninety per cent or more of the public vaccinated. Not everybody agreed with mandatory vaccination, and some didn’t even believe in the vaccine or the virus itself. We were faced with many hostile participants who came in for the vaccination. Law enforcement had to be placed around the hubs to guard against aggression.
We nurses and healthcare professionals were seen as heroes to some but villains to others. I learnt that proven scientific data does not necessarily overwrite the opinion of someone who has already decided to disagree with the health advice that we health professionals offered. As frustrating as that was, we, as nurses, had to respect the right of others to refuse the vaccine. But we nurses also had a duty to educate the public on the need to get vaccinated, but we could not push our values and beliefs onto others who could not see the critical role vaccinations played.
The pandemic was a series of unfortunate events for which the world was not prepared. Despite the obvious health problems and the negative impact the pandemic had on our economy, what I witnessed firsthand, while working as a RUSON at the frontline, was the grace and sacrifice of my fellow nurses who chose to show up to work each day to fight the challenges.
As I continue my career as a registered nurse, I will never forget the lessons I’ve learnt, the things I saw and the people I crossed path with during the coronavirus pandemic