The benefits of being and working with a reservist

Nick Medway

16 / 3 / 2016 Midnight

Nick Medway is practice engagement, quality and governance manager at NHS Fylde and Wyre CCG. Nick has been a reservist for 30 years and share his experiences.

Having served as a military reservist for 30 years, my two careers have happily co-existed and I have enjoyed good support from a number of employers. As a Commanding Officer with a significant challenge to recruit, it appears to me important that reservists, prospective reservists and employers share a clear understanding of how a reservist career can benefit their primary employment. As I see it there are social benefits and directly transferable skills.

The benefits to you and your team

Within a military environment team working is very important. Military roles are often clearly set within a rank structure, socially this allows reservists to clearly understand who they are, what their role/place is and what contribution they are expected to make. This has helped me understand my various job roles within the NHS and how I could act to the best advantage of any team I have worked within. In part this may be exercising leadership, and it has certainly helped me understand how to be an effective follower/team member.

A further socialising benefit of reserve service is the experience of military appraisal, and if I could transplant one military process into the NHS this would be it. Why? Because military appraisal reports drive career development and promotion opportunities, they are integral to selection and promotion processes, I think this helps people to focus on operating effectively. Military appraisal also helps people understand their worth and capabilities, and supports self-confidence as well as a sense of advancement in either workplace. Also some reservists are reporting officers, they will be trained to observe, support, mentor and report on others, which is directly transferable to the civilian workplace.

In any workplace, benefits can be gained from being part of an organisation that has a focus on developing its culture. Like the NHS, the military values its culture, diversity, and people. Perhaps a benefit for the reserve, is that as a training organisation it can devote more time to this, building team dynamics and belongingness through training activities that will pay dividends when operationally tasked. I would hope NHS managers recognise their reservists to be good team players, willing to belong and to go the extra mile for their colleagues and patients.

Alongside these social benefits the skills our reservists are trained in are often directly transferable to their civilian roles, for example excellent communication skills, respect and the ability to both give commands as well as receive then act upon direction. This amounts to self-confidence; reservists receive training in presentation and teaching skills, many will be effective instructors presenting to a wide range of senior and junior colleagues; an excellent skill set they can deploy within their civilian roles.

How the NHS gains

From a clinical perspective reservists are exposed to a lot of training opportunities, for example; specifically related clinical courses for the various clinical disciplines (at every level) and courses addressing the assurance and governance agenda. In addition, the Army Reserve offers sponsorship for some higher education courses (MA/MSC) and funds its members to attend professional conferences at local and national levels providing immediate benefit for civilian employers.

The medical reserve also has roles for non-medical personnel; sometimes exposure to the medical world through reserve service leads people to retrain in medical roles, offering an effective recruiting ground for new NHS professionals.

Operational tour

In closing I will touch briefly on deployment - clearly the raison d'etre for reservists. Whether in Afghanistan or Sierra Leone fighting Ebola, the experience for medical reservists working in such focused and intense environments challenges and develops reservists to their full potential. We see adversity at its extreme and work to the best of our abilities in a "can do" team, adhering to the highest levels of clinical governance. Whilst our NHS colleagues do not directly share the experience, every reservist will carry the positive effects of that experience back into their workplace.

As reservists we are grateful of the support we receive from our NHS employers, as an organisation we hope to deliver you a grounded, confident, well trained, dependable and effective colleague, who is energised and enhanced by their reserve activities.

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