Nothing and no one can prepare you for working on the frontline during a global pandemic.
My name is Steve, and I work in the NHS, developing and working on vaccine deployment. There are three aspects to the last year which profoundly resonate with me as I look back at the anniversary of the pandemic.
1. The blurred lines between work and real life.
At the start, the intensity of the workload was so great that days turned into nights and weekdays turned into weekends without a single thought. There was no such thing as demarcated lines in the day or week anymore. You just kept working until you physically had no more left. There was no finish line in sight. And that was deemed to be fine; what else did we have to do outside of work anyway?
2. The remarkable effects of the team.
In all honesty, some handled it better than others, and for most, they stepped up to the plate. For others, natural burn-out hit hard, and exhaustion kicked in quickly. Some developed sleep apnoea, others chronic fatigue syndrome, and for a few of us, anxiety. It’s been a lesson in understanding the power of looking after yourself first and not being a martyr. It makes me wonder what lasting effects will be uncovered post-pandemic.
3. Lastly, feeling detached.
Working in the laboratory during the Thursday doorstep claps for the NHS was strange and left me feeling very detached from the world outside. I wondered if people understood what role people like me were playing behind the scenes. I’ve since heard many people talk about their respect for the work the NHS has done over the last year and remembering where we fit into that praise is important.
Whilst the vaccine rollout has been an unmitigated triumph - despite mistakes made over the last year - we should celebrate this as we venture toward a careful reopening of society. It’s a year I’ll not forget and, like, everyone else I don’t want to revisit. But like my most stoic of colleagues and those who’ve tirelessly worked without a break, when it comes, and I break the 6-day-a-week cycle, it’s going to be bliss.