Gemma Schofield

Army Nurse

"I think it is the camaraderie between you and your colleagues that makes Nursing in the Army different. You work together, live together, and share experiences together that you otherwise would not. "

Tell us about your role and what you do.

I joined the Army when I was 24 years old. Before that I studied Psychology at University and went on to have a postgraduate career in a Solicitors office. I knew working 9-5 in an office was not for me. I chose to be a Nurse in the British Army because I wanted to help people, I wanted to help British Soldiers. I was also drawn to the adventure of deployments abroad and the challenge of nursing in different environments. 

How did you find initial training? 

I completed 14 weeks Phase 1 training at ATR Pirbright. I enjoyed basic training, and I knew I had made the right career choice for me. I liked the challenge, I learned new skills and my confidence grew.

I then completed a Degree in Adult Nursing at Birmingham City University. The Army provided lots of academic and clinical support whilst learning and whilst on placements at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. I had never worked in a hospital before, so it was a bit daunting at first, but everyone was incredibly supportive. 

What are some of the ways that the Army has trained and prepared you for your role?

I had completed my first year of the preceptorship programme at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, just before the first wave of the COVID 19 pandemic. I was on call 6 days a week and would work on wards that were short of staff due to staff isolating or sickness. I found myself working in clinical areas such as ED, CCU, respiratory high care, liver, and orthopaedic wards. Every shift was different, and I learned a great deal. Just by being there as an extra pair of hands, I relieved some of the pressure from my NHS colleagues. It felt good being a part of it, and able to use my skills to help. It meant the patients received the level of care they would expect to receive if we were not in a pandemic.

During the second wave, I was completing my elective placement within ITU. My Military and NHS ITU colleagues we’re incredibly supportive and we had weekly clinical supervision and training. They also gave one to one teaching at the patients’ bedside, which developed my skills and confidence whilst working in ITU. We also worked alongside the Hampshire and Isle of White Fire service. They would help with turning patients, which dramatically relieved pressure from ITU staff, as ‘proning’ a patient with Covid-19 requires five or six people. The Royal Artillery also provided gunners to help as porters. It was a great experience collaborating with other services at a time when hospital staff were most stretched. 

What is something that has surprised you along your journey? 

I think it is the camaraderie between you and your colleagues that makes Nursing in the Army different. You work together, live together, and share experiences together that you otherwise would not. 

My most memorable experience was during my second year at University. A group of us volunteered with SAVE foundation, to teach English to children at a school in a Township in Cape Town. It was an amazing experience working with the children, their teachers, and volunteers from other Nations. Volunteering made me appreciate how much we take for granted as an affluent country. In our downtime my colleagues and I went skydiving, shark cage diving, hiked to the top of Table Mountain, went on safaris, and visited Robben Island. It was an incredible four weeks. 

What other opportunities have you got to experience? 

Outside of work we are given opportunities to take part in adventure training. Whilst at Portsmouth we had opportunities to go sea kayaking, surfing or stand up paddle boarding. I had never done any of those activities before but enjoyed them so much I bought a board and now go down to the beach, lake, or rivers in my free time with my colleagues. It's great fun and social. 

I would advise anyone considering Nursing to apply with the British Army. There are so many opportunities as a Nurse and a Soldier. 

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