Swapping the skies for scrubs – Jamie’s story

Jamie Wilson, 27, has been helping to deliver vaccinations at the vaccination centre at the Bath & West Showground. However, Jamie’s background is quite different from what you may imagine. A newly-trained airline pilot, Jamie was made redundant in December 2020, straight after landing his first job with Royal Brunei Airlines. He came to work for the Somerset COVID-19 vaccination programme because he wanted to help the world open up again. Before the Bath & West vaccination centre closed, Jamie shared his unique journey from flying high in the skies to vaccinating thousands of people on the ground in Somerset.

“In mid-December 2019, I moved to Brunei to start my new job as a pilot, but COVID-19 swept the world and travel was stopped everywhere. I was made redundant and as you can imagine, this was a huge shock to me. There I was starting my new life, and COVID-19 happened just out of the blue. It had taken a £93,000 bank loan and two years of my life to become a pilot but after all of that training and investment, I was stuck in Brunei with nothing to do.

“Life was hugely frustrating but then I got the chance to fly back home to Somerset, so I packed my bags and came back to the UK. I was unemployed, I couldn’t see any of my friends, and my future prospects looked bleak in a world of COVID-19 travel restrictions. “Then a friend from EasyJet told me about the wonderful charity Project Wingman who were looking for furloughed flight crew to help NHS workers. I applied for a job and did all of the training including all of the basic NHS modules for safeguarding and COVID-19 safety. I am now a fully trained vaccinator and have worked four-and-half-days every week to vaccinate about 50 people a day.

“My job is essentially to make sure that patients are well enough to be vaccinated when they come here. I ask questions such as: “Do you suffer from any allergies? Do you have any COVID-19 symptoms? Then I ask for the patient’s permission to vaccinate them and if they agree, I ask which arm they would like the vaccine to go in. Then I draw up the vaccine and I give it to the patient. If someone has no medical issues, they can be out of the vaccine pod in five minutes.

“I enjoy working here, the team is really friendly, and we have fun despite the seriousness of giving vaccines. There’s a really good mix of older and younger people. Whether you are a GP, nurse, or someone like me, everyone has a story on how they got into the Somerset vaccination programme and this has bonded us. We are like a close-knit family and it is a very happy place to work.

“I want to help the world get back on its feet again. Remember, everyone needs a holiday. I don’t think we really understood or appreciated travel before. I know we will really enjoy going out in the world again and discovering other people and their cultures after this pandemic is over.

“Hopefully, people will want travel and explore the world and bring us all together again. Travel outside the UK is an eye-opening experience whether it is in India, Australia, Morocco or elsewhere.

“The aftermath of the pandemic will be positive because nature affects everybody, and we have all been fighting the same battle. We all want this pandemic to go away and I am really proud to be doing something to help get us through this.”