A dental nurse who is helping to vaccinate people against coronavirus is calling on colleagues to join her in the fight against the pandemic.

Carla Coulson is one of 30,000-plus volunteers who are training with St John Ambulance to become vaccinators.

Carla, who started as a trainee dental nurse in 2004, is head nurse and assistant practice manager at Beverley Highgate dental practice in Beverley, East Yorkshire.

She stepped forward when a patient – a retired nurse – told her about the call on healthcare professionals to help roll out the COVID-19 vaccination.

Carla explained: ‘I decided to look into this further and found that more than 30,000 volunteers are needed to help roll out the vaccine to the general population.’

She said she made the decision because ‘this pandemic has affected everyone’.

‘I live in Hull, which has one of the highest rates of infection, and is currently in tier 3. I have a seven-year-old daughter who thinks it is the norm to wear masks and keep away from our family and friends. I have hated having to cross roads to avoid people and smiling under a mask.’

Her training began with a teleconference meeting via Microsoft Teams.

Carla said: ‘This was with a lovely lady who happened to a dental nurse. Once that was completed, I had to provide two references and fill in an occupational health check to ensure I wasn’t shielded or vulnerable. I then completed online modules provided by St John Ambulance and NHS eLearning.

‘These modules are assessed as you go along. Topics include basic life support, CPR, anaphylactic shock, equality and diversity, consent, GDPR, safeguarding, information about the vaccination, administration and storage – plus scenarios that test this knowledge.’

She added: ‘Once the modules were completed – which takes around nine hours online – I attended a face-to-face training session at a local St John Ambulance centre. This was a day’s training carefully organised and kept in social distance zones with full PPE supplied. We practised CPR, infection control, AED, first aid scenarios and learned how to administer the vaccination via role play.’

Carla believes dental nurses already have the basic foundations to help with the vaccination.

She said: ‘Safeguarding, consent and the Mental Capacity Act are already embedded in our day-to-day working lives, infection control is second nature and all dental nurses have a friendly and reassuring disposition and the competency to handle syringes.

‘If we all did a little extra to help, we can pull together and stop the high spread of this awful disease. I want to look back on this in years to come and know that I actively did something to help get everyone's life back to some sort of normality.’

A spokesperson for St John Ambulance said: ‘Using our longstanding expertise, we are empowering people with vital clinical skills and the confidence to use them.

All volunteers will meet strict selection criteria, mandated by the NHS, and receive appropriate clinical training. This includes official courses developed in partnership with and approved by NHS England. As well as extensive training, they will be subject to assessments and clinical supervision to ensure their own safety and that of everyone receiving the vaccine.’

GPs begin offering the vaccine today (Monday 14 December) as hundreds of local vaccination services run by family doctors and their teams will open across England this week, as the roll out of the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history gains further momentum.

Practices in more than 100 parts of the country are taking delivery of the vaccine today, with some kicking off their clinics this afternoon and the majority starting on Tuesday.

Nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and other NHS staff will work alongside GPs to vaccinate those aged 80 and over, as well as care home workers and residents, identified as priority groups for the life-saving vaccine.

Along with other countries in the UK, residents of care homes in England will also receive their first vaccine later this week after distributors finalise new, stringent processes to ensure safe delivery of the PfizerBioNTech vaccine.

For more details about volunteering as a vaccinator with St John Ambulance, click here