From medical student to volunteer vaccinator
While many of her peers were stuck at home during lockdown, second year medical student Janine Ramos was out in the community, putting what she’d learnt at university to good use. Rochelle, a friend of Janine’s who nominated her as an Awesome Aucklander describes her as a “powerhouse”, spending countless hours helping at vaccination centres around Auckland, as well as being part of the Student Volunteer Army, delivering food to those who couldn’t go out and shop, all while juggling her demanding studies. “Her gentleness, kindness and love shines through in everything she does for others.”
Janine says being able to go out and help her community helped her get through lockdown.
“The last lockdown was a lot better for me in terms of not feeling as anxious or lonely. I had family, friends, and uni to keep me going, but also being able to work and vaccinate people was a really rewarding time for me. Lockdown can be hard, especially because I feed off other people’s energy, but I was so thankful to be out there working every day. Seeing other nurses, doctors and students going out and doing what they could was so inspiring.”
“With my chosen career pathway, everything fell into place and I really enjoyed getting out and falling in love with the practice. Especially during COVID, you just see the worst of the worst. It’s rewarding knowing that even something as simple as a vaccination can change a lot for someone, to know they’re protected, even the slightest bit.”
While there are many high points and rewarding moments, it’s not always warm fuzzies and stress-free. Janine admits that it can take a toll sometimes, especially when patients don’t get better.
“It’s really draining to watch someone you’ve admitted turn so critically ill in the span of two hours... It’s hard to see people suffering, especially when it’s children falling critically ill.”
Janine is grateful for the support systems she has at home with her family and at work with her colleagues. Her siblings all came home to join the family bubble over lockdown, and she says the staff at managed isolation facilities, where she’s recently begun helping out with emergency care, place a strong focus on wellbeing too.
“I've been hitting pretty big shifts, up to 12 hours! But we have wellbeing coordinators who are constantly checking on staff. Someone will come and ask if we're okay and encourage us to talk if we need it."
“It’s good because I wouldn’t normally stop to think about how I’m looking after myself through all of this. I think we’re in a really good place with mental health. Obviously there’s more to be done but there’s more of a lens on it now and people are able to acknowledge that they might not be okay mentally, even if they’re okay physically.”
Tāmaki Pūkenga Rau