From ground control to flying high

Some members of our vaccination clinic team are about to return to their roles at Qantas. Pictured left to right: Chris Frawley, Wendy Davies, Arthur Karavangelis, Karen Granig, Kathleen Thorne, Bridget Kihara, Sam Jackson.

Flight attendant Bridget Kihara is looking forward to getting back in the air but she’s going to miss working at the Sandown Racecourse COVID-19 Vaccination Centre.

“I’ve loved this role,” Bridget says. “I really felt like I had a purpose, and I was doing something important for the wider community.”

Bridget reached out to Monash Health earlier this year while Qantas was not flying international routes.

“Vaccination was the key to getting people flying again and I’m very passionate about it, so I thought I should practice what I preach,” she says.

In a team with other Qantas employees as well as staff from industries such as retail and hospitality, Bridget worked at both Sandown Racecourse and Dandenong vaccination centres and was blown away by the “super caring” Monash Health team.

The Sandown Racecourse Vaccination Centre team have received fantastic feedback about the Qantas staff who have worked at the clinic. Pictured left to right: Arthur Karavangelis, Emma West, Wendy Davies, Koula Vasiliadis.

“Helping them reassure people and getting so many over the line was very rewarding,” she said.

“I particularly remember one teenager who was very afraid of needles. Her mother was so worried. In the end, we all worked together to set up an appointment, meet them at the gate, and give the girl virtual reality glasses for distraction.

“I talked to her about travel and Hawaii while I checked her in and then I handed her over to the concierge and the nurse who gave her the VR glasses and successfully vaccinated her.”

Bridget said that airline staff were accustomed to dealing with worried or anxious people.

“It was great to convert that experience into a positive experience for the community,” she said.  “Now that Qantas international flights are back, I’m returning to the sky, but this has been a great example of the two organisations helping each other out. I’m so pleased to have played a part.”

Elisabeth Moss from 9 News Melbourne spoke to Bridget Kihara about her experience working at the vaccination centre.

Gabrielle Bunton, Nurse Manager at the Sandown Racecourse Vaccination Centre, says the Qantas staff had been instrumental in the efficient running of the vaccination centres.

“We’ve had amazing feedback from the public, with people so impressed by how streamlined it’s been, from a happy greeting to a ‘have a nice day’ goodbye,” she said. “All their customer service, team building, and organisational skills have been so valuable.”

Gabrielle said many of the younger casual staff were also benefitting from the experience and will be able to take their new skills to other roles.