The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games has closed at the Alexander Stadium to a live audience of over 30,000 and global audience of more than a billion people.
“Supporting the delivery of the games were a total of 14,000 of volunteers”
The games were delivered as the largest event ever staged in the West Midlands (with some events also further afield), providing 11 days of spectacular sport, with 4,500 athletes from across 19 sports and eight para sport.
Supporting the delivery of the games were a total of 14,000 of volunteers from across Birmingham, the West Midlands, the breadth of the UK and the wider Commonwealth, who together made up the ‘Commonwealth Collective’.
This group of volunteers fulfilled countless vital roles that helped ensure the successful delivery and smooth operation across the multiple sites and events, as a ‘collective’ being referred to as the “beating heart of Birmingham 2022”.
One of the vital groups of volunteers at the games were the medical teams that supported across field of play (athlete facing), spectator areas and workforce medical needs.
The groups of medic volunteers consisted of people from a diverse range of clinical backgrounds inclusive of nurses, allied health professionals, doctors, medical and health care students, and others with a non-registered background but with extensive experience in emergency first aid.
The care and treatment provided by medical teams ranged from: assisting injured athletes; providing emergency medical care to spectators; to minor injury treatment; preventative public health interventions; and general spectator queries inclusive of directing people to their appropriate seat, assisting pinpointing the nearest toilets, or helping to identify where the Greek food trailer was located!
With medics wearing the same uniform as all other volunteers with the addition of a green medic armband and carrying their emergency first responder kits, many of the attending public did not initially realize they were approaching the medical team with general queries – but as part of the ‘collective’ approach, the medical volunteers embraced the experience proactively supporting people.
The diverse multidisciplinary team of medical volunteers consistently demonstrated effective teamwork, rapidly assimilating responsibilities whilst respecting each other’s skills, supporting one another, working outside of their familiar environments and normal securities, and consistently delivering a professional medical service within the confines of available resources.
The following reflections are from nurses that contributed to medical teams during the games illuminate why they initially volunteered, what they learnt during the experience, and what they personally got out of volunteering, and what their next steps are following participation in Birmingham 2022.
I have been able to volunteer previously with a regional ambulance service as a first responder. I was part of the St Helena medical team at the Island Games in 2019 and returned to clinical nursing practice (alongside the lecturing day job) during the pandemic.
These experiences helped to give me the drive and motivation to apply to volunteer as a medic for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
As somebody that had not been part of a spectator medical team previously, I was initially unsure what to expect.
“I would recommend other nurses to put themselves out of their comfort zones, volunteer”
During my first shift at the opening ceremony, despite my prior clinical experience, I naturally felt anxious as everything suddenly felt unfamiliar alongside the constant loud background volume.
This was coupled with the constant radio communications in my ear – desperately trying to listen and process all the information in case I was needed to respond to some form of emergency.
As the noise of the opening ceremony was replaced in the following days by the roar of crowds, I felt increasingly part of the stadium environment and began to think this was my forever role, and back to the familiarity of daily late shift working.
As I lived away from home during the games, I had to get used to living in student accommodation after a gap of 30 years. But this living in the bubble of the games has helped make my experience more complete, as I felt part of the wider collective volunteer team.
I worked alongside some amazing people as part of the medical team. We always seemed to work as a unit, welcoming new people at every shift, understanding our responsibilities and going the extra mile to ensure everything operated quickly and seamlessly as possible, while at the same time having some fun and shared laughter along the way.
I would recommend other nurses to put themselves out of their comfort zones, volunteer, learn and refresh skills, and share your knowledge and expertise, I am sure you would not regret it. I am tempted to apply for the Olympics and next Commonwealth Games.
When I heard the Commonwealth Games was coming to Birmingham, I knew I had to volunteer as it was in my local area.
Let us be honest, the last two years have been hard for everyone and maybe more so for those who have been working in the NHS.
Having previously volunteered at the London 2012 Paralympics, my previous experience helped with the interview and, dare I say it, for an interview I loved it and went away buzzing.
A nervous wait for the next few months before the email landed offering me a role as a spectator nurse with the Alexander Stadium. I accepted straight away, I love athletics and knew to be involved would be a positive experience.
“Everyone on that first shift was so warm and welcoming and we all started to bond very quickly”
I work as a cardiac ANP so it was daunting to think I would be helping to provide first aid to the thousands of spectators. But in my day job I spend a lot of time assessing patients, so I was hoping this would not be too different.
Fast forward to June and the rota comes out, along with training days, online learning, and lots of emails.
At this point, it all became a bit overwhelming and I worried that I would not be up to the task. Deep breaths, making lists, booking accommodation, and planning and the first shift quickly approached.
I was apprehensive to say the least, but I had some idea of what to expect. Everyone on that first shift was so warm and welcoming and we all started to bond very quickly.
Yes, we learned as we went along but we were a great team all supporting each other. I learnt so much along the way from everyone I worked with me that I know will benefit my practice and my patients.
I loved meeting the spectators, being able to assess them, provide treatment with no time pressures. Sometimes it is nice just to be able to have the time to chat (something that is a challenge in the current climate at work).
They were so grateful for the service that the team provided, and this was highly rewarding.
Having watched athletics for a long time, I could not work out what I had been missing over the last couple of years until the first shift of competing.
It all became clear it was the roar of the spectators not only cheering the home countries but everyone participating it gives me goosebumps even thinking about it now.
So, does it end here? No, I fully plan to continue to volunteer and hopefully inspire others to do the same honestly you will not regret it.
Volunteering involves a lot of planning, commitment, and resourcefulness but is so rewarding. As a nurse, our services are always required, and it really can make a huge difference to someone’s day.
For me (as a Brummie girl) who moved to Coventry in 1980 to start her nurse training (and having retired from my substantive role in March 2021), I love sport (watching and taking part) and have always wanted to take part volunteering in a sporting spectacle.
At last, having retired and the children grown up, I had time to commit to an event and one here in my home city.
“It took me back to my roots of why I came into nursing, to help and care for people”
I was so excited when I found out I had been successful in my application, although had little knowledge of what to expect as a spectator nurse.
The biggest pleasure I had, other than meeting some other fabulous volunteers, was the reaction and interaction with the public.
It took me back to my roots of why I came into nursing, to help and care for people. In our busy NHS lives, this basic need is often forgotten.
The thanks from the people receiving the care, the kind words of gratitude from people, made it so worthwhile. A great and humbling experience and a tick off the bucket list.
I have just completed my spectator nurse role as a volunteer at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. I feel very privilege to have been part of the medical team at the Alexander Stadium and the NEC.
I got involved with the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham because in my youth days I played netball at school and did lots of athletics at county level. I thus grew up loving most sports.
I was given the opportunity to be part of the medical team at the Olympics in London 2012, and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. As a result of this, I decided to continue this volunteering trend in Birmingham.
“I had never used a radio, so I had to quickly come out of my comfort zone and get to grips with it”
As a spectator nurse, I was expected to carry a radio, so that all members of the medical team could communicate with me if they needed my help.
Prior to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, I had never used a radio, so I had to quickly come out of my comfort zone and get to grips with something that looked very barbaric at the start of the games but became my best friend.
The Commonwealth Games gave me so many valuable opportunities. It allowed me to make many independent decisions as a spectator nurse, which took me out of my comfort zone. I am a hospital-based nurse and most decisions made are very much a team effort.
My leadership skills have improved because of the games. I can honestly say that this was down to our venue medical manager for the medical team whom I can only describe as a legend.
Going forward from the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, I have registered my interest for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
I would also like to be involved in the Olympics in Paris; I will need to improve on my French but plan to do a short course in French prior to the Paris Games.
When I first heard that Birmingham had won the bid to host the games, I remember thinking wow I must be a part of this amazing opportunity.
When the London Olympics came, I had just given birth and, therefore, could not be a part of that and I missed out
Fast forward to 2022 after we had been in and out of the lockdown, and it seemed like the idea of the games was far from being a reality. In March, I finally got my email to confirm I had been successful in the selection process.
“It has helped me to feel good and improve feelings of self-esteem”
I really felt part of the event and we had amazing leadership. Volunteering gives a brilliant team experience it really gives the feeling you are in it together its such great teamwork.
I learnt a lot from this experience from meeting new people, new skills, delivering care in a different environment on a very large scale. I was also able to represent my community at these games.
I remember growing up my dad used to enjoy watching these games and it really was a big deal to him. This was all the way in Zimbabwe.
I would have never dreamt that one day I would be at a stadium witnessing these and meeting athletes, celebrities, and the royal family.
Volunteering has been positive for my mental health. It has helped me to feel good and improve feelings of self-esteem. It has provided me with an opportunity to make friends.
The skills I have gained are transferable for my healthcare role as well as my community group delivery. I lead on a local BAME group providing support to families that lost a relative due to Covid-19.
I feel I have caught the volunteering bug as I have already put my name forward for the Paris and Victoria Games.
I decided to get involved in the Commonwealth Games because I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone.
I have worked as a nurse for 30 years, nearly 20 of those as a theatre recovery nurse. I have recently retired and returned, so am still working in recovery.
However, I very nearly did not accept the role. My patients, despite undergoing surgery, are generally well. I have worked in larger hospitals but there is still the backup of the surgical and anaesthetic teams.
I felt surely whoever had allocated me this role had got it wrong! Anyway, I had a serious word with myself, I would not be working alone, I was still part of a team, and who knows I might really enjoy it!
“To say I was nervous was an understatement, terrified is a more appropriate word”
So, I accepted my role and undertook the training, getting lost in Birmingham city centre along the way, eventually finding myself at the Alexander Stadium for my first shift.
To say I was nervous was an understatement, terrified is a more appropriate word. Before I knew it, my first shift was over and I had walked 28.5 thousand steps. I was on cloud nine with the best feeling ever and could not wait for my next shift.
I loved hearing about people’s backgrounds and how they got into volunteering. I was amazed at how far some people travelled to work at the games and the sacrifices they made to be there.
I put myself forward because it was a once in a lifetime event so close to home that I could not at least apply. Yet there were fellow medics from countrywide and further, bringing a whole range of skills working alongside.
I know some colleagues faced more challenging situations than myself during the games. Though I am certain with effective teamworking I could have risen to the challenge if needed.
The whole experience was far more rewarding than I could ever have imagined. I cannot explain why it has been such a positive experience because I was wracked with nerves and uncertainties to start with.
The sun shone, the crowds cheered, the athletes performed, the volunteers responded. It just gave me such a warm fuzzy feeling that I wished I could have bottled it up. I would recommend volunteering to everyone at least once in their lifetime.
My Commonwealth Games journey had started when a friend shared some information from an email he had received regarding volunteering.
Wow I thought, this would be a lifetime opportunity, just outside my ‘doorstep’ right here in Birmingham!
Also, having emigrated around two decades ago from Jamaica, I knew this would be an ideal way of representing my county of birth as well as giving back to my country of citizenship.
“This experience has reminded me of the importance of determination, endurance, and perseverance”
Having changed jobs and been working as a clinical bank nurse since the beginning of the pandemic, I felt this would give me more flexibility to experience this lifetime opportunity.
This experience has reminded me of the importance of determination, endurance, and perseverance. It has been a reminder that unity is strength no matter our differences, especially when united in reaching a common goal.
I have stepped outside of my comfort zone. I have met and worked with other healthcare professionals away from the usual hospital setting, keeping a keen eye on the crowds of up to 30,000 people – looking out for any near miss or actual incident.
I had fun times during this experience, interacting with the spectators as well as other professionals.
For some time now, it has been my desire to become a missionary. I am hoping that I will be guided to another and even better opportunity in the future as a medical or non-medical missionary or volunteer.
Well done multi-cultural Birmingham for hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games!
The driving force behind volunteering for the Commonwealth Games was a direct result of my volunteering experience at the London Olympics in 2012.
I had such a fantastic time volunteering with the medical team in London, that I was always keen to repeat the experience. Ten years later, I got my wish, and I was once again volunteering with a medical team covering a large crowd of spectators in an athletic stadium.
With a background in intensive care nursing, it was easy to think that my skill set may not be applicable to a sports setting. However, there are so many transferable skills relevant to any situation and environment.
“I was so impressed by the overwhelming kindness displayed by the team to the public, no matter their worry ”
One of the key things that I learnt during my Commonwealth experience was that adaptability and professionalism were essential regardless of the situation, no matter how big or small, kindness and compassion are everything.
These values were intrinsic within the volunteer team and were evident in all members.
I was so impressed by the overwhelming kindness displayed by the team to the public, no matter their worry – be it chest pain, mobility concerns, vertigo, or a request for sun cream, each concern was dealt with professionally and kindly.
That kindness was also displayed to each other within the team, which is certainly a large part of why I enjoyed the experience so much.
As well as the fantastic teamwork, and the opportunity to provide high quality patient care albeit in a strange environment for me, I must also mention the sport.
The love of sport is what motivated many of us to volunteer and having that opportunity to play a small role in the successful running of the games was invaluable for me.
The atmosphere and the opportunity to watch some of the athletics, when of course we were not required, are some of the moments that I will look back on fondly from my games experience.
I will continue to volunteer on an ad hoc basis and be involved in and enjoy sport as well as keeping an eye out for more events in the future.
As a current nurse educator, I will be passing on my experience to the nursing students highlighting the joys of volunteering as well as how those fundamental skills of nursing that we teach, including compassion, kindness, and communication, can be applied to any environment – including a 30,000 seat stadium!
Guy Collins, senior lecturer, University of Derby, and first responder team leader, Commonwealth Games
Emma Timms, cardiac advanced nurse practitioner, Oxford University Foundation NHS Trust, and spectator nurse, Commonwealth Games
Ann Curzons, clinical supervisor, Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust, and spectator nurse, Commonwealth Games
Rosemary Deans, surgical nurse, Nuffield Health Parkside Wimbledon, and spectator nurse, Commonwealth Games
Memory Nelson, research nurse, Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, and first responder team leader, Commonwealth Games
Sarah Thomas, sister, day case unit, University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust, and first responder team leader, Commonwealth Games
Julie Roberts, clinical bank nurse, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, and first responder team leader, Commonwealth Games
Lucy Morgan, senior teaching fellow, University of Portsmouth, and first responder team leader, Commonwealth Games