Going green: experiences of a new reservist


02 / 3 / 2016 10am

Paula Colclough has been working as a Band 4 assistant practitioner in Accident and Emergency for 10 years and has been a Leading Air Craftwoman  in the Royal Air Force (RAF) reserves for one year.

I've always wanted to be a member of the Armed Forces and now my children are grown up this was my chance to grasp a new opportunity in life. I wanted a new challenge that was meaningful and worthwhile, and joining the Reservists was going to give me that.

Before I even started the application process to join the RAF (which took six months) I approached my line managers and told them my plans, as I wanted to gauge whether I would be supported or not in my new venture. This was vital, as I needed to be able to swap shifts, take unpaid leave and change booked annual leave so that I could attend different courses for my RAF training.

I was lucky, from the outset I was told “we will always support the armed services and we will help you as much as we can.” Since becoming a reservist I have found that there are a few things that can help to balance my NHS work with my RAF career:

  • Flexibility

To help maintain working relationships I give my manager as much advance notice of my training dates. This has been very important when trying to get time off for my reservist training.

  • A good working relationship

I would say that it is crucial to have a good working relationship with your line manager. I recently put it to the test when requesting four weeks off work to attend training courses that are specific to my trade as a medic.

  • Advice

My manager also offered me some advice about how to cover time taken out for training, this included taking unpaid leave, using annual leave and to make the rest of the shifts up over a period of weeks.

The training is necessary if I am to become a fully qualified medic and ready for deployment if called upon. The onus is down to each individual to get their specific trade training done, but the more you put in to it the more you’ll get out of it.

To sum it up, you have to be dedicated and committed to being a reservist and trained to the same standards as those who are in the regular army. Even though I’m still ‘green’ and have a long way to go with my learning, I love the challenge it gives me.

Being a reservist also helps with my work as an assistant practitioner in Accident and Emergency, as my skills, experience and knowledge are enhanced due to the extra RAF training. It has also made me much more confident when dealing with challenging patients and when delegating more when needed.

Overall, my training as a medic with the RAF reservists has been a positive experience, but it has also been a roller coaster of emotions and has pushed my boundaries beyond what I thought I was capable of achieving. This is why I am certain that I am going to be in this for the long haul.

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