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Working at Covid 19 Testing Centres: What can I expect?

What are testing centres?

Testing centres have been introduced up and down the country to help track and trace the virus and allow people with symptoms to be tested for the coronavirus.

What does the test consist of?

Most sites are ‘drive in’ centres, meaning people wanting to be tested should drive or be driven to the test site in their household’s own car. After arrival at the site the person being tested will need to show their ID and wait to be seen in the car. The staff at the site will direct patients with signs stating what to do at each stage.

As the test centres aim to be contact-free, most people will need to self-test while at the site. They will be given a testing kit and then need to take a swab of their nose and throat. There may be some mild discomfort and some people feel a gagging sensation, but it should not hurt. For those who can’t self-test, there is an option to have a person carry out the test at the site, but this will be explained upon arrival.

Being tested typically takes between 10 to 30 minutes. Visitors will drop their test off into a box before leaving.

How are Arc helping these testing sites?

Since April, Arc have been supplying staff to various test centres around the country. Our staff are working full days, helping healthcare professionals distribute tests, clean equipment and direct patients as they arrive at the sites. We also have supervisors on hand to carry out stock takes and ensure operations at the site are running smoothly. 

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We caught up with Arc Supervisor Matthew, who is working at a Testing Centre in Sheffield to find out more about what happens at the sites and why staff enjoy working there…

What is your role at the testing centre?

I’m the Supervisor Medical Lead in the PPE Department, for the evening shifts.

What does a typical shift look like?

I start at 1.30pm, with a handover from the morning supervisor, covering how the day’s gone, checking how many tests have been done and cross referencing the amount with the Site Manager’s list.

We have a Royal Mail pick up at 2.50pm so we then have to get the kits ready to be collected. Straight after the collection we must run a stock take so the manager can order what we need for the next day.

I then have to organise the team, make sure they’re making testing kits up correctly, ensuring all the bays have everything they need, radioing if we need any more supplies. There are three Zones at the site — Green, Amber and Red — the Red Zone is where testing bays are, I normally stay in the Green Zone so staff can always find me if there are any issues.

Another part of the role is quality assurance. I carry out spot checks on the kits teams have made to make sure they are correct and accurate. We also have to ensure the container where tests are stored is kept under 24 degrees, so I check that once an hour.

At 8pm the site closes and we conduct an end of the day count, we tally how many tests have been sent out, how many haven’t been used, to calculate how many have been completed in the day. These should then match the manager’s tab.

The whole process is, in a weird way, a bit like running a bar, in the fact that you have to do stock checks, monitor stock levels and manage staff and guests’ expectations, but with a completely different end goal!

What top tips would you give to someone starting work at the centres?

Constantly keep in mind what the purpose of the site is — It’s to save lives which is a great thing to be doing so you must remember how important it is as well.

Make sure you are always following directions and adhering to guidelines. Wash your hands every time you return to the Green Zone from the Red and Amber Zones and make sure you’re keep your distance from other people as much as possible.

Know your job role and what is expected of you

What can a person being tested expect from the centres?

The key thing to remember is that ideally there should be no person to person contact. You’ll be directed by signs to certain bays and will have to drop the kit off into a box outside your car window when you leave. If you are struggling doing the test, there is a number you can call and someone in PPE will come and assist you with the test.

The time it takes to do the test can vary from 5 minutes to half an hour but it’s more important for the test to be done accurately than quickly.

What do you like about working at the test centres?

Throughout all the jobs I’ve had, this is the one I’m most proud of. I’m helping to save lives and we are tasked to make sure there isn’t a second peak. What we’re doing is so vitally important. It’s great to be part of the response effort to combat the coronavirus. It’s given me a new career end goal and I feel very proud of what I have achieved.

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