Nurse reservist brings NHS expertise to major combat exercise

Friday 29 June 2018

Louise Dewsbury army reservist, side-by-side photos in army and nurse uniform

A nurse from Evelina London Children’s Hospital put her medical expertise to the test when she took part in a major combat exercise in Poland.

Louise Dewsbury, lead nurse in the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at Evelina London, is a British Army reservist in the 306 Hospital Support Medical Regiment.

She is one of 11 reservists working at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, which includes Evelina London, who give up their time to serve in the Armed Forces.

Louise recently took part in a multinational military exercise called ‘Saber Strike’, which was led by the US Army and involved 19 countries and 18,000 troops.

Louise, who qualified as a British Army reservist in June last year, said: “The mass casualty simulations were very intense and realistic, and wearing the body armour in the blazing sun was hard work.

“One of the scenarios involved our military dog getting injured. Known as Max and made of cardboard and plastic cups, he had an important part to play in the simulation because US Army dogs are treated with equal importance to their handler.”

Louise, 53 from Forest Hill in south east London, added: “The exercise helped us overcome language barriers and highlighted how important it is to know the strengths of your team, to show compassion and appreciate those around you – the principles of these skills are absolutely vital in my role at Evelina London.”

Louise decided to become a reservist because she was looking for a new challenge having been a nurse for over 30 years.

The mother of two said: “It’s something I’d always wanted to do and at my age it was now or never.

“The leadership training I’ve had at Evelina London has been incredibly valuable in preparing me for what is expected in the reserves.

“It’s given me new energy and I can safely say that it has well and truly pushed me out of my comfort zone.”

There are around 5,000 medical reservists working in the NHS across the UK.

Kirsty Catchpole, a trainee advanced nurse practitioner in the Emergency Department (A&E) at St Thomas’ Hospital, completed the reserve training with the British Army’s 256 City of London Field Hospital two years ago.

Kirsty, who has been a nurse for more than 20 years, said: “My parents were both in the Royal Navy so joining the forces was always something that was burning at the back of my mind.

“I’ve loved working in A&E so finally decided it was time to use some of my free time to apply my skills in another setting.  

“The training at Sandhurst was certainly character building, but working in A&E for many years had prepared me for the demands of the course and the eventual reservist role.”  

Dame Eileen Sills, Chief Nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “We are incredibly proud of our staff who go the extra mile by giving up their time to support our Armed Forces as reservists. The skills and experience they gain benefit our patients enormously.

“As a Trust we have a proud history of supporting the Armed Forces. We help ex-servicemen and women find employment in the NHS through the Step into Health programme, and we previously received a Silver Award in the Ministry of Defence’s Employer Recognition Scheme.”

Armed Forces Day is celebrated on Saturday 30 June.

Last updated: March 2022

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