Charting an academic course

Stuart Roberts

24 / 3 / 2015 8am

Surgeon lieutenant commander Stuart Roberts serves as a medical officer with the Royal Navy Reserve (RNR). He is also a trainee neurosurgeon at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. Here Stuart shares why he became a reservist, the academic opportunities it has given him and how being a reservist has benefited both Stuart and his employer.

"I was inspired to join in 2009 while a junior doctor working on the trauma ward of Selly Oak Hospital. I felt privileged to participate in the care of returning injured personnel. I was inspired by the can do attitude of the military medical staff, with their unyielding commitment to go above and beyond in order to provide fantastic care. Add in a great working atmosphere, good banter, hard work coupled with support and morale, and you have the perfect package.

When I sent the forms in to my local armed forces careers office, it was with the expectation that I would be heading off to Afghanistan, however this did not happen as it takes some time to be fully deployable. 

After attending an acquaint visit, I applied as a direct entry officer. I then completed Initial naval training over two years, which is mostly on weekends, being trained in core officer, maritime and basic military skills. This develops your leadership potential such as learning to trust and support one another and those we would lead. After Britannia Royal Naval College, you are commissioned and enter the ‘trained strength’. As a doctor, your level of training and the military’s requirement determines when you are deployable. 

Professionally, the RNR has helped create opportunities for me within research, enabling me to publish with military colleagues and set up my own research projects examining neurosurgical issues within the military. The Ministry of Defence is funding my PhD as it has a defence benefit. I have gained a fellowship from the Academic Department of Military Surgery and Trauma (the research section of Royal Centre for Defence Medicine) and also the Military Research Fellowship from the Royal College of Surgeons of England. 

Personally, I have been able to participate in several sailing trips making use of the Navy’s fleet of yachts. The military also has a social scene to rival any.

Being a reservist has improved my administrative and organisational skills, clearly transferable to working within the NHS. Leadership and management is a key component of officer training formalised by courses which support membership of the Chartered Management Institute and also, military medical courses that provide CPD points. 

The key to minimizing impact to the NHS was planning ahead to facilitate attending training weekends. Within the Birmingham trust, I met no resistance to taking leave for military training and my colleagues and the trust provided locum cover and were forthcoming with support for my involvement. I believe the benefits of being a member of the Reserve Forces includes developing new skills, resilience, determination, physical fitness, planning, leadership skills and allowing me to realise my potential for both the military and the NHS."

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