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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



24 June 2015

Captain Rachel McAuley tells of her experiences with 204 (North Irish) Field Hospital and the benefits that these have given her in her civilian career:

My name is Rachel McAuley and I am an anaesthetic nurse in the South Eastern Trust in Northern Ireland. I also am a Captain in the Army Reserve. I joined the Army Reserve in 2012 and through my reserve career I have managed to complete many operationally specific clinical courses, had experience through different Field exercises, completed numerous adventure training activities and deployed to Afghanistan. 

I became interested in joining the reserves during attendance at a trauma study day organised by 204 (North Irish) Field Hospital Army Reserve Unit. This finalised my decision to join the Queen Alexandra Royal Army Nursing Corp. Once I had attested, I commissioned as a Lieutenant and completed my Professionally Qualified Officers’ course at Sandhurst. Sandhurst enables development of leadership skills and gives you confidence to lead and manage those under your command and within your team. These are most certainly qualities that I am able to transfer to my civilian job. 

My line manager is supportive of my reserve career and my commanding officer, as a reserve officer himself, appreciates the difficulties that can occur if the employer is not considered at all times. Work within the two organisations compliments each other well - my experience within the Army is transferable to my NHS job.

On my operational tour I became aware of the differences between my job as a theatre nurse in civilian employment and as a reserve nursing officer. Post trauma resuscitation was made easier as most of the patients were fit and healthy soldiers therefore we were not treating patients with pre-existing conditions. 

The army enabled me to complete clinical courses as part of my pre-deployment training that I would never have had the opportunity to complete in my civilian job.
These courses are operationally specific and focus on dealing with large scale casualties within the theatre setting.  An example might be assisting eight surgeons at once during emergency operations.  This type of training teaches you to manage major incidences - which is an exceptional skill to have within my civilian career. 

The minimum training commitment as a reservist is twenty seven days. These are made up of a two week annual camp and training evenings. This is a small amount of time, particularly important when you have a busy civilian job. Although the army asks for twenty seven days from me, in reality I complete more than this.  Indeed, this year I attended over seventy days of training. This incorporated medical training, competing in competitions, attendance at a two week annual camp in Gibraltar and skiing courses.  This training year, I look forward to taking part in the Nijmegen marches in Holland. 

The Army Reserve has taken me to places I could only have dreamed of visiting and I have met the most amazing and interesting people. We become close as a team within the Unit and it's like a second family as we all really support each other. In fact, I was extremely honoured to be bridesmaid to one of my reserve friends last year.  My reserve career has only just begun and already I feel I have achieved more than I imagined.  I look forward to new and exciting challenges as an Army theatre nurse.