The sky's the limit


17 / 3 / 2015 9.30am

Squadron Leader Alex Norman is a GP working in South West London, he is also a medical officer and flight commander at RAF Brize Norton. Here, Alex shares his experience as a new member of the Reserve Forces, how his training has benefited his practice, and his hopes for the future.

“I am a 37-year-old GP working in South West London having joined the RAF Reserves in 2012. Having worked in hospital medicine and changed to GP training, I was looking for an extra challenge in my role upon my move to London. I had no previous military experience, but had family friends who had been in the RAF and who spoke highly of the life it gave them.

The reserves seemed an ideal way to combine a different aspect to my daily practice as well as bringing about new challenges, travel, as well as meeting new people.

My current role is within 4626 Squadron at Brize Norton working as a medical officer and flight commander. The aim is to deploy so that I can use both the medical and military skills in a hostile and demanding environment.

There is a significant amount of training required as part of the application process, involving both military and leadership courses taking place at RAF Halton and RAF Cranwell. These periods are tough but extremely rewarding both mentally and physically. The leadership skills learnt at Cranwell have certainly developed my understanding of how to work well within a team as well as lead one. In this time I also completed a post graduate diploma in leading in a clinical context which complimented the training.

In my two years in the reserves I have worked as a medical officer at the last RAF Leuchars Airshow, the Cenotaph Parade and have been involved with courses run on the squadron such as intermediate life support and trauma intermediate life support.

I'm now spending some time working in the David Stone Medical Centre at Brize Norton to become proficient in using the military IT systems and performa in order to consult with patients.

I'm completing the aeromedical course in January this year and then will be hoping to undertake a placement in Cyprus working as a medical officer.

The can-do attitude that the RAF instils in its personnel has been a strong motivator in project managing patient pathways and service design within my clinical commissioning group (CCG). The ability to work well in a team but also give good direction is invaluable in helping provide and improve patient services.

Working as a flight commander, I am responsible for the welfare of various trades such as medics, nurses and paramedics. Understanding their concerns, as well as developing their abilities, is something that I can bring back to both my practice and the CCG in how to work well in community teams as well as with secondary care colleagues.

I also attended training in Cyprus taking on challenges such as survive, evade, resist and extract training. This not only contributes to the can-do attitude but also helps reserves gain trust and bond with other team members so that when placed in a situation that requires absolute focus and confidence in your colleagues, you know that you have that in abundance.

It's a balancing act - working for the NHS and being involved with the reserves - but the opportunities offered and skills developed far outweigh this effort. My practice has been very supportive and my liaison with Supporting Britain’s Reservists and Employers (SABRE) have been very positive.”

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