“Most hospitals give their staff the time they need to serve with the reserves, either with paid leave or unpaid special leave.
“As a reservist, you get the best of both worlds because you run two parallel careers which each complement one another. I have combined my work in the emergency department of a range of hospitals around Yorkshire with a career as an army reserve and I loved it.
“Reserves usually train two weekends a month and every Tuesday evening. During Covid times, courses have had to be adapted, including those for new recruits and many are now online.
Joining as a reserve
“I have always been interested in the Army and joined the reserves at 212 Field Hospital based in Sheffield on the same weekend that I qualified as a registered nurse, back in March 1999. By the autumn of that year, I had completed my recruitment training and a year later was awarded the Queen’s Commission.
“I attended Sandhurst to do my entry officers’ course in 2002. It was a brilliant all-round experience and taught me an enormous amount about leadership at the start of my military career. That was fortunate, because only a year later I was sent to work on a ward in Iraq which made me incredibly grateful for the stability we often take for granted here in the UK.
“Over the years, I have attended many courses through the military which have also enhanced my NHS practice, for example those on life support and managing severe burns. The Advanced Life Support course is recognised by the NHS and is free to serving reservists and you get paid to attend. The Battlefield Advanced Trauma Life Support course is similar to the NHS Advanced Trauma Life Support but relevant to a battlefield setting. The course includes scenarios which are very realistic using casualty actors (actors who are amputees) and staged in dark, outdoor settings. Casualty simulation and make-up are used, including fake blood which they love soaking you in as you are treating them!
“In July 2018 I took part in a mass casualty exercise called Live Ex. It was held at the Army Medical Services Training Centre. The simulation incorporated a realistic replica of the emergency department of the local hospitals. This enabled the NHS staff in these trusts to put simulated training to good use and test their major incident plans.
Opportunities for reserves
“The major incident medical management systems course teaches you how to control major incidents and liaise with the emergency services in order to give casualties the greatest chance of survival. This was in a pre-hospital environment and I thoroughly recommend it.
“On a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear clinical course, I learned how to look after the casualties from these sorts of events and the unique challenges they bring. It enabled me to assist with mandatory and major incident training, giving realistic scenarios to emergency department colleagues.
“The opportunities do not stop at clinical courses. Many reservists have done further academic study to gain qualifications. For example, I completed modules in a top-up degree and also gained a mentorship qualification. This is particularly useful in my current role within the military as a trauma nurse co-ordinator and emergency department nursing officer. It is also recognised by the NHS.
Adventure for reservists
“If you have a specific interest in sports or adventure training, there are many courses that the army pay you to do, such as instructing in skiing. Many unit members are also involved in representing the army in horse riding, golf, athletics and basketball, to name just a few.
“Every year there is a major training exercise which could be at home or abroad in places such as Germany, Gibraltar, Jersey or the United States. Some of these exercises include training with non-UK military. I mobilised to the Ascension Islands to provide medical cover for an exercise with the Royal Engineers. This was a unique opportunity to work with them and to observe work within the local hospital, as well as doing adventure training there.
Many of my colleagues have deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as assisting with the Ebola Crisis in Sierra Leone.
A warm welcome awaits
“I would encourage anyone who has an interest in joining the Army Reserve to get in touch. At 212 Field Hospital, we are a friendly unit with many job roles available. These are not just in healthcare roles but other areas such as transport, catering, and clerical roles too. There are also many other Army Reserve units that are recruiting.