In busy Covid-19 vaccination centres across South West London, our matrons are hard at work ensuring the speedy delivery of thousands of jabs.
Christiana Pena, the matron at Centre Court Vaccination Centre, has worked as a nurse, midwife, and occupational health adviser in the UK and also in Mozambique and Bangladesh. She took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to talk about her long career in nursing which all started when she hurt her leg …
How long have you been a nurse?
Longer than I’d care to mention!
Why did you choose nursing as a career?
When I was a little girl, I was in Africa and I got an infected leg. I had to go hospital. The kindness with which the nurses treated me just made me want to be nurse. A few years later, at my church, we had a talk from a missionary about his work overseas. I was drawn to this work, so when I qualified, I applied to become a leprosy nurse, and went to those two countries. I worked as nurse but also a midwife, eventually becoming director of nursing in for the hospitals.
And why did you come forward for this role?
I was working as an occupational health adviser when I saw an advert for a clinical supervisor in the vaccination programme. Part of my role was giving vaccinations to student nurses, so I thought, ‘I could do that’. Then I saw an advert for the matron role, a more senior job, I applied, and got accepted, for both – but I took the matron role.
How do you find working at the vaccination centre?
I do enjoy it, having my own centre to look after. The best thing was setting it up from the beginning. We have some busy days. But we’re a good team. At quieter times we get together, staff speak about subjects that are close to their hearts, we share things and learn from each other.
And being in the middle of a shopping centre
I managed to go round some of the shops to introduce us, let them know we’re here. Many of the shops’ employees have come here for their vaccines. And Tesco and M&S and Morrison’s have been amazing about donating snacks for the staff and volunteers – which we’re grateful for.
Tell us one thing you’re proud of
We get some patients who are petrified of needles. We take them aside; we’ve got a pod to give them privacy and we take the time to reassure them. When we’ve finished, they say, ‘Oh was that it? It wasn’t as bad as I thought’. They’re really thankful for the extra time, for not being hurried.
How do people react when you tell them that you work in a vaccination centre?
People are surprised it’s in a shopping centre. Some ask how I manage the long hours, but people who know me know that I’m not that easily fazed.
And the public?
We’ve done 12,000 vaccinations, which feels really good. And we get amazing feedback from people. Even the few negative comments are more about ways we could improve. It’s just nice to know that people appreciate us.
So what’s next?
We don’t know how long we’ll be here – just until we get the job done. I may go back to occupational health or look for a job in the NHS. With the response we’ve had to the vaccination programme, it feels like the future is bright.