Building a Better Health Service

Your Health

Joe makes swabbing easier for children

Joe Mooney with his COVID-19 medal which he and his colleagues were presented with by management of the National Ambulance Service for their work throughout the pandemic.

Getting a COVID-19 test is never a pleasant experience, especially for young children. But one member of the National Ambulance Service (NAS) swabbing team has been making sure that he can make it as fun for them as possible.

From day one of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Ambulance Service (NAS) crews of EMTs, paramedics and advanced paramedics have been carrying community swabbing in private houses.

Joe Mooney, an Advanced Paramedic based in Dublin, explained that this service was designed for patients that are unable to make it to a static site, for example, palliative care patients or patients with medical conditions that make it difficult for them to get to the community testing centre.

“One of the challenges we faced early on and still do is the swabbing of paediatric patients that have been referred for a swab. It can be worrying for both parent(s) and child, so we try and make it as fun as possible,” he said.

“When I get the list of homes that are due a swab that day, I will look at the date of births and see if I have any children on the list. I will than ring the parent and explain that I will be with them in the coming hour or so to do the swab. If the child is of school-going age I might ask their teacher’s name before I arrive,” said Joe

“On arrival of the house I will have a mask on and all the paperwork sorted and the rest of the PPE that I will put on in the hallway/lobby. I usually at this point tell the child that their teacher rang me this morning and told me that they are the best boy/girl and that I was asked by the teacher to come and look after them. They usually love that I know their teacher’s name.”


“As I put on my PPE, I usually tell the child that the mask makes me look like a duck (FP2 mask) and the gown is like a clown outfit. I also tell the children that the visor I put on is so my big nose stays in the mask (I really do have a big nose). This usually has the children laughing.

“I will explain the process to both parent and child and show both the swab(s). If they are very young I will see if they will sit on their parent’s lap and I will ask the parent to wrap one arm around their child’s arms and hold their head with the other hand (like when the GP is taking their temperature).

“After I have completed the test I take off all the PPE at the door and will leave while waving to the child.”

New swabs for children

Since late October, there are new swabs for children and the swab teams are also swabbing children under one only in the nose and only 1cm up the nose. From one year to 13 years of age, they do 3cms in the nose and over 13 they do the oral and nasal swab.

“The National Ambulance Service are in the communities around Ireland doing COVID swabbing for the most vulnerable people, as well as providing emergency pre-hospital care,  and its truly an honour to be part of the team,” added Joe.