Furloughed McKesson UK nurses volunteer as trainers and testers

Seventeen nurses from McKesson UK have volunteered to join the NHS COVID-19 testing scheme to help deliver vital virus testing to people who believe they have the coronavirus. The nurses all work as travel specialists for MASTA (part of the McKesson UK family) and have been furloughed due to many travel vaccinations being cancelled as a result of the pandemic.

Three of the nurses have been accepted as official ‘national trainers’ and will work across the country to train local volunteers to carry out the tests. Fourteen travel health nurses have volunteered to be a ‘tester’ and will become the nurse lead where another lead hasn’t been established already.

Clare Duchars has been a nurse since 1985 in a variety of roles including working for the NHS in general nursing as well as time spent in Germany in cardiology. But in the last eight years she has specialised in travel health, most recently as the Regional Operations Manager for MASTA in the North.

Clare’s day job involves covering a patch as far south as Cambridge and as far north as Harrogate. A typical day will involve travelling to one of the MASTA clinics, covering for travel advisors or teaching new recruits about travel health.

Clare says: “When COVID-19 hit, we had to close our clinics as it wasn’t possible to continue with non-essential vaccinations and of course, people were cancelling their holidays. The nurses were furloughed and when I’d helped with that process, it was furlough for me too.

“I spring cleaned the house and now have a weed-free garden! I’ve worked since I was 16 and it was strange adjusting so I was glad when my employers suggested the volunteering opportunity, I felt it was something I could do to help.

“I went to be trained as a tester in Leeds in a park and ride facility. Initially, swabbing someone’s throat was a bit nerve-wracking, but I soon got the hang of it as well as learning what we had to say to people so they had the right instructions.”

Clare has now been signed off as a trainer and last week when the new testing facility in Hull opened, she trained a team of testers to do the work there.

“I show them how to wash their hands properly and how to sanitize, how to use their PPE and basics about infection control. Then I show them how to take a throat and nasal swab correctly. It feels quite good to teach others how to look after themselves – I’m going back to the main principles of nursing and it feels good.

“We smile at people coming to be tested to put them at their ease as many are nervous, but they can’t see us under our masks and gowns! I hope they can sense it I’m sure and see it in our eyes and hear it in our tone.

“The atmosphere on site is great – we’re a big happy team including the security guards and cleaners as well as testers. I keep telling the cleaners what an important role they are doing too, keeping people safe.

“It’s good to be going out doing something and even better to contribute in a small way to the fight against the pandemic.”