From the ward to a warzone

Lt Col Cook

03 / 3 / 2015 9.30am

Lieutenant colonel Patricia Cook is an advanced practitioner in neurosurgery at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust. She is also a reservist based at 207 Field Hospital in Manchester. Here, Patricia shares her story of deployment to Iraq in 2004, how this has benefited her as an NHS nurse and what effect this had on her NHS trust.

“I deployed to the military hospital based at Shaibah Log Base near Basra in Southern Iraq in 2004 as the nursing officer in charge (NOIC) of the intensive care unit (ICU).

Here I managed a team of nurses from all over the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. Most of us had never worked together before and we had to pull together as a team very quickly to provide cohesive high-quality care in a tented hospital where the internal ambient temperature during the daytime was approx 35 degrees centigrade. I worked with both regular and reservist medical personnel.

I allocated personnel to teams and shifts, and also attended command groups with heads of department and the commanding officer to ensure that the ITU was meeting its operational targets and objectives. 

As a member of the trauma team and on 24-hour call, I attended the A&E department whenever major incidents were declared and when major trauma patients were being treated. We treated a range of individuals with injuries ranging from heart attacks to major burns, chronic obstructive airways disease to gunshot wounds, and injuries from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). I also carried out a helicopter transfer to Kuwait for a patient with a head injury.

I improved my prioritisation, management and leadership skills under extreme pressure at times. This was evidenced by being short-listed and subsequently receiving the ‘highly commended for the Nursing Times team of the year’ award in 2004. I was selected to judge the ‘rising star’ category the following year with the then Chief Nursing Officer for England, Christine Beasley.

I believe my organisation has benefited from me being a more resilient individual who is able to think outside the box and do more with less. I am a more rounded individual with the ability to prioritise care and events with an adaptive, flexible can-do attitude. I have enhanced business planning and service planning skills and can offer chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) advice if required.”

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