My First Co-Op in a Covid-19 Vaccine Clinic
Although working in a healthcare setting is never how I imagined spending my first Co-Op, or truly any of my Co-Op terms, this summer work term proved to be one of the best work experiences I’ve ever had.
As someone who is terrified of needles, I must have been crazy to even look into this position in the first place. Being in a building where hundreds of people get shots in their arms every day – what was I thinking?
Luckily, my position did not require anything remotely medically of me (I actually wasn’t even allowed to touch the needles at all – rightfully so) and focused on supporting beneficiaries who came in to get their shots while maintaining Covid safety protocols.
This meant my job entailed everything from signing patients in at the computer check-in station, handing out stickers and hand sanitizer, and even being emotional support for people who were nervous about their immunization to help them feel comfortable.
There were many, many things I loved about this job, and it would take me several Co-Op final reports and blog posts to describe them all. Instead, here are my five favourite things about my first Co-Op in a Covid vaccine clinic:
1. Getting to work in my own community
I was fortunate enough to get placed with the Red Cross at the Langford vaccine clinic which is my home community. I’ve been living in Langford for the past eleven years – it’s where I’ve gone to high school, worked several part-time jobs, and met my long-time friends.
There wasn’t a single day I worked at the vaccine clinic where I didn’t see someone I already knew – former classmates, old teachers, family friends. But this also meant that as I talked to beneficiaries who were complete strangers to me, we often found connections, just from living in the same place.
Whether it was finding out we lived in the same neighborhood or that we had a mutual friend, I loved having the opportunity to get to know the people of my own community, and in effect, making these connections helped many of them feel more comfortable about getting their vaccine.
2. Feeling like I’m making a difference
Through eight months of online university, being laid off from my part-time job twice, and trying to respect BC Provincial Health Orders, I pretty much never left my house before I started with the Canadian Red Cross.
As someone who naturally likes to help however I can, this was hard for me at a point when I’m sure we all felt like so much was out of our control. So, one of my favourite things about this Co-Op term at a vaccine clinic was feeling like I was actually helping, making a difference, and working towards putting the pandemic behind us.
Being a frontline healthcare worker is never something I thought was in my future – I remember putting on my work PPE, face shield and all, for the first time and feeling so out of place. But from the very first day on the job, I knew I was working in the right place. It felt good knowing that my work was useful and worthwhile, and that I could be a resource to people in my community surrounding the vaccine effort.
3. Being given the opportunity for leadership roles
One of the great things about my position with the Canadian Red Cross was being given the opportunity to act as a leader.
On my team, we usually had about ten people working at any given time. For those who wanted to, we rotated the position of “team lead,” which was basically the supervisor for the team.
This leadership position entailed creating a schedule of positions and break times for the team each day, monitoring the number of appointments and walk-ins, and making calls to people who didn’t show up for their appointment.
I was really grateful to the Canadian Red Cross for giving us the opportunity to try out this leadership role, because it was a great way to practice trouble-shooting and team management. It also worked well that we always had a manager and lead nurses present, so we could always look to other leaders for help.
4. Learning about myself and what I want to do in my future
Like I’ve said, I never pictured my first Co-Op having anything to do with healthcare, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t learn a TON from this experience.
Many of the people I worked with were also Co-Op students, but they were in programs like Health Information Science, Biology, and Chemistry. Out of all the Co-Op students, I was the only one even from the whole Faculty of Humanities.
I got asked a lot why I chose this position as my Co-Op and for a while I didn’t have an answer. But looking back, I know I made the right decision to work in a vaccine clinic, because I truly did learn a lot about myself, what I like to do, and what values I want to seek in a future career – and none of what I learned has anything to do with medicine or science!
For example, this Co-Op made me realize that I love working with people – making connections and being able to support beneficiaries was a highlight of this job for me. I know now that in whatever career path I follow in the future, I will enjoy it if it has a public-facing aspect to it.
5. Meeting amazing coworkers and making new friends
Lastly, working with the same team of people 35 hours a week for 20+ weeks in an extremely fast-paced and often under-staffed environment could have been a recipe for disaster, but I am endlessly grateful for the team I had.
I met some of the best coworkers I’ve ever had and made amazing friends, even though many of us were at different points in our lives, vastly different ages, and lived all over the city.
From our slowest days to our busiest days at the clinic, I always knew I had an amazing team to lean on, and they were a group of people I didn’t want to let down. My experience with the people I met on this Co-Op work term will definitely inform the work culture I look for in the rest of opportunities in my career.