Jack Buchanan, Contact Tracer

Tell us a little about your job and what it entails

I’m a Contact Tracer with Test and Protect. So primarily, I call people who have tested positive for Covid-19 to provide isolation advice, gather data and contacts, and try to manage the spread of the virus. Within the team, though, there are a lot of different roles. Often, I am a Workstream Lead that prioritises cases, delegates work, and escalates higher risk cases to the Public Health Nurses or Consultants. Latterly I have been an Outbreak Management Lead and helped manage outbreaks in higher risk areas. This was more of an information gathering and analysis role, something I really enjoyed.

What do you enjoy about contact tracing?

In a word, learning. There are so many different aspects to this job, and a deceptively large number of ways to specialise and learn things. During my first few weeks I threw myself into learning how to use the software and the guidance we were using for cases. Then, as a Workstream Lead, I learned a lot about how to prioritise cases, manage workloads and got a greater insight into the wider role of contact tracing. I have done a lot of work in outbreak management which was really interesting. It’s been a great window into the more granular roles of the Public Health team.

How do you deal with difficult people or situations?

I’ve never found the limits of my patience in this job, yet. Generally, silence and dead air helps if they are being particularly vocal. Everyone is difficult for a reason, so once you identify why it’s usually easier to address things. Failing that, since I am very much on the bottom rung of the Contact Tracing hierarchy, saying very courteously that I will escalate their concerns to my Team Lead works well!

Tell us about your previous work experience

Out of school I worked in a care home, then started a nursing degree at the University of Stirling and realised it wasn’t for me. I worked for Enable Stirling for the next 7 years while I did a film degree and masters, before ending up here. Peripheral jobs include working for the Student Union, running a videography & photography company with my partner and once upon a time I was a lifeguard.

Is there any historical character you would have liked to be friends with and why?

Do they come to my time or do I go to theirs? Either way, Henry Cyril Paget. I can’t imagine a more outrageous person to see out the 19th century with.

Favourite film or TV show?

As a bonafide film nerd my honest answer would be Tropical Malady, a lovely Thai film about two men falling in love in a jungle as they are haunted by a ghostly tiger… but in the interests of being accessible (and unpretentious) you can’t go wrong with Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. It’s great for any mood – sad, happy…hungover. Technically a holiday film, since it’s set at Christmas and New Year, but it fits for any situation and it’s so charming.

How do you spend your spare time?

I love cooking (which is handy, since I also love eating), and recently my girlfriend Paulina has roped me into the trials and obligations that come with house plants. I try to watch a film every day and meet up with friends in pubs. Sometimes I make films with Paulina and our friends, and I still try to keep a hand in my research interests so will write and when I’m lucky, get published.

How would you spend one million pounds?

With ease. And some semblance of social responsibility, I hope.

Sporty or bookish?

I snowboard, hill walk, run and swim, but not as often as I should. I also read less than I probably should. Given the choice, bookish.

Best laugh or funny moment?

Whenever I am with my whole family, or my friends all manage to meet up together I laugh until my sides hurt. Once upon a time I made a short film about a Scottish Donald Trump (an overwhelmingly negative idea), and – in the cinema we screened it at – it managed to get the whole audience to laugh. Funny? Aye. Wise? No.

Worst situation you have found yourself in?

It’s a toss-up between witnessing a C-section as a student nurse, or a frantic and downright dangerous drive from the Dead Sea to Amman airport. Our taxi driver got sick so his brother (who is not a taxi driver, and looking back, I am sure didn’t have a driving licence) said he would take us instead. We were very late and the last ones on the plane.

What would you tell your 16-year-old self?

To continue down the same path, since I’m fairly happy where I am now. Although I wish spending that one million wasn’t just hypothetical. Maybe I’d tell him to bet on Leicester City in 2016.