Blog : How helping people make informed choices about vaccination is making me a better doctor

Jim Lee, one of Liverpool’s Covid-19 vaccination call centre staff is also a medical student currently completing a master’s degree at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM). In this blog, Jim tells us why this opportunity was so important to him and how it’s helping him become a better doctor.

“As part of the Liverpool Public Health vaccination call team, I’m responsible for making outbound calls to residents who are not yet vaccinated. There are many reasons why people have not had the jabs, so my role is to make sure people fully understand the reasons for ­­­­­vaccination and the associated risks of not being vaccinated.

With rates of Covid-19 on the rise again, we want to help people make fully informed choices about what’s best for their health – in an honest and non-pressured way.

It’s a phenomenal feeling when I see that someone I’ve spoken to has then come forward for their vaccine – showing these conversations are making a difference.

A really memorable call for me was when I rang up a couple who’d recently arrived in the UK from overseas. They didn’t speak much English, so I had to call them using an interpreter. It also turned out that they were scared of needles, so by using the roving vaccine team I managed to organise for someone to go out to them. They were so grateful for my help, which really makes it all worth it!

As part of my medical training, I’d decided to do an intercalated year – meaning I’m taking a year out of my medical degree to study for a master’s with the LSTM. This year has of course given me an opportunity to extend my academic skills like research and evaluation, but through my role with the Public Health team I’m also becoming a better communicator.

Being able to interact with the public is an integral skill of any medical student – but for the first two years you’re sat in a lecture theatre and rarely get the opportunity to see patients. Working as part of the vaccination call team has given me the chance to speak to thousands of people – helping me to be a better listener and become more empathetic.

It’s been a great experience – and actually a hugely important one for my career. The patients I’d previously interacted with wanted to see a doctor (well maybe not want, but they did come to see us) so me going to them (when most haven’t wanted to engage) has helped me see the other side of the coin. I can better understand the reasons why people have not taken up the offer of vaccination and that helps me give them information that is relevant to them.  

I want to pursue a career in tropical and infectious diseases, which is why I’ve spent this last year at LSTM. Over the summer, I’m going to Malawi to do some diagnostic work with communities burdened with a disease called schistosomiasis – a really nasty blood parasite.

The lessons I’ve learned and the skills I’ve developed as part of my role with Liverpool City Council’s Public Health team will be invaluable when engaging with these communities.

I’m heading back to finish my medical degree in Newcastle this September, and fingers crossed I’ll be a doctor this time next year. I hope to go down a 50/50 clinical and research route in the future, as I really like the science behind the clinical work, but still want to be a working doctor – so want to return to Liverpool and LSTM in the very near future.”

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