In this blog, Nicola Norris, e-roster manager at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, outlines her experience of how the trust supports its Armed Forces reservist staff to have a career in both the NHS and in the military.
I joined the Royal Signal Reserves in 2020 as a comms system operator. I joined the reserves to do something completely different to my day job as an office worker and a mother to three children. It was also a chance to do something for me and explore skills that I wouldn’t get chance to do in my normal daily life.
The NHS employs a significant number of reservists who give up their time to train and serve in the Armed Forces, combining this with their civilian life and career. My trust recognises the importance of the training I undertake as a reservist. This training enables me to develop skills and abilities that are of benefit to my respective reserve force, me as an individual, and to the trust.
Colleagues who volunteer for service with reserve or cadet forces are entitled to 10 days paid leave (pro-rata for part time) in each annual leave year. Having the additional leave means I don’t have to lose out on time with my family as I still have annual leave to enjoy spending time with my children.
My trust’s special leave policy provides further guidance and some additional options that are available to reservists who want to take advantage of any of the opportunities presented to them, on top of the basic requirements. These opportunities may include adventure training or mobilisation. My line manager, Kat, has been a huge support. She always shows an interest in anything I have done when I have been away with the Army and supports me 100 per cent with any time off that I request.
Following an informal discussion with Kat about how I would like to meet other members of the Armed Forces community, a network was born. Without Kat following up on this conversation we wouldn’t have had the Armed Forces network set up so quickly and efficiently – this commitment from management was vital.
As a group we meet monthly and talk about what we have done, what we are going to do and just enjoy spending time with other people with similar interests. We have a shared set of objectives that we truly believe will make a difference to our trust and the children and young people we look after.
With the trust’s supportive polices, the encouragement of our Armed Forces network, and the backing of my line manager, I am highly motivated to remain in my role at the trust.
My military role and my role in the NHS couldn’t be any more different, yet the skills I bring from both are constantly transferring. In my role as a signaller, I spend my days setting up communications infrastructure comprising fixed and mobile installations. When communications are established, I act as a radio operator relaying messages for field commanders through a structured chain of command.
As a reservist we have a core set of behaviours that we are taught from day one. These are courage, discipline, respect for others, integrity, loyalty, and selfless commitment (CDRILS). These behaviours and experiences have enabled me to be more resilient and courageous in my NHS role and understand the importance of teamwork, leadership and ownership. I believe my team and my trust have benefited from me bringing these skills to my NHS role.
The Army has taught me about taking care of myself both mentally and physically, which has been incredibly beneficial for my own wellbeing. This is especially important because I have two jobs and bring myself to them both fully. The training and discipline I’ve gained with the army help me navigate this and it’s fulfilling to know that I can contribute my unique perspective and abilities to serve others in a different capacity.