BENDIGO's testing staff have faced a long 18 months.
Rain, hail or shine, they swab you.
First in line, middle of the pack or lucky last before the site hit capacity, they swab you.
Happy, frustrated, sad or anxious, the staff at Bendigo Health's testing sites swab you.
All 150,000 of you.
That's right, 150,000 swabs have been administered at Bendigo Health's testing sites and this week staff have shared their experience working on the frontline over the last year and a half.
At the beginning of the pandemic, there were just six people working at Bendigo Health's original testing clinic on Stewart Street.
Today, the number sits at 55, and the Stewart Street site no longer exists.
To meet what seemed to be ever-growing cues of weary Bendigonians, Stewart Street was closed and the staff are now split across two sites, McLaren Street and the Showgrounds.
For Nicole Harper the last year and a half has been an unwinnable game against the always increasing demand and the goalposts just keep on moving.
We have faced with many things, some are very challenging and it is eye-opening and I think we have handled it really wellShelby Trigg
The COVID clinic and rapid response team nurse manager looks over both Bendigo sites and the Loddon Mallee rapid response team, no easy feat.
With rules constantly changing it has been difficult to get the correct information out to the public, especially regarding testing, she said.
"It is a rollercoaster, obviously now having our young children who are not vaccinated, it's increased testing demand," Nicole said.
"We really want people to get tested if they have been identified as primary close contact, symptomatic or if they have been to an exposure site," she said.
"It's incredibly frustrating, I have young children myself and I can't imagine how it would feel being stuck in a car for hours.
"We want to encourage people, if they know they need to get tested, just be prepared, come with some food, some water and devices.
"We do toilets on-site at the Showgrounds so will help relieve some frustration from the public."
Experience and perseverance
It takes almost 30 staff to run the Showgrounds site for a day, conducting an average of 400 to 600 tests a day.
During the peak of past outbreaks this number has been closer to the 1000 mark.
"It's demanding (work). They are working seven days a week sometimes and we have lots of retirees in the workforce and there is pressure for them to come back and work those really long days," Nicole said.
"They are in full PPE and heat and all the elements come with that as well, it's tough."
For some testing staff, like Shelby Trigg, working on the frontline has been a rewarding, educational experience.
A registered undergraduate student of nursing, Shelby signed up as a staff member, shortly after being told her placements for the year would be put on hold.
Arguably a seasoned swabbing professional after 14 months now, she said the community's positive attitude has made the pressure of the long days doable.
"Our placements were put on hold last year, so this was good to be able to do that clinical work while I was unable to go on placement," Shelby said.
"We have received more positive feedback than negative from people that do come through.
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"One of the main things I feel that has helped us as students, is understanding the importance of communication."
Some days though, were overwhelming.
"We have faced with many things, some are very challenging and it is eye-opening and I think we have handled it really well," Shelby said.
"Seeing that there is a large surge in demand in testing - like last month - can be overwhelming but it's good to know you have a supportive team behind you.
"It makes the day run smoothly and creates a fast-paced environment for us all.
"It's so busy and it easily could get overwhelming so having that support team is key.
"You never really thought vaccinating and swabbing those years ago would be so important so it's great to get that experience and it's an essential skill now, I suppose."
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