Countess colleagues set for Remembrance Sunday parades
A nursing assistant from the Countess of Chester Hospital will be part of the British Army’s parade in Chester on Remembrance Sunday.
Alex Western, who started working in the hospital’s emergency department last December, has been in the Army Reserve for eight years and spends what free time she can honing her skills as a Lance Corporal in the Royal Army Medical Corps.
She explained how the strong bonds forged with her colleagues in the reserves have reflected the way she views working in a permanent healthcare setting for the first time.
“All the patients in hospital, I see that they could be grandma, my grandad, my brother, my sister, my mum or my dad so if you treat the patients that way then they’re always getting the best care and it’s the same as the guys in the military,” Alex said. “If we were on tour they could potentially take a bullet for me so looking after them as well as I can is the least I can do.”
It was Alex’s experience over the years with the reserves, including a six-month tour in Cyprus, that inspired her to work for the NHS and she sees how the skills she has learned in both roles transfer across, such as being adept at coping under pressure on a regular basis.
“I’ve learned how to handle my stress levels. I know my skillset and if I recognise something I can do I will always do it to the very best of my ability,” she said. “I can develop in my current role at the hospital in a similar way to the reserves and it’s a new challenge I’m relishing. I only wish I’d done it sooner.”
Alex will be joining C Squadron Queens Own Yeomary in a parade around the city on Sunday before attending a Remembrance Day service at Chester Cathedral at 10am, following which there will be a second parade around the city.
When possible Alex trains with Army Reserve every Thursday night and goes away with them for one in three weekends on training exercises, having committed to freeing up at least 27 days a year. Given the 24-hour, seven days a week nature of the emergency department this is not always possible, but she is grateful to her colleagues at the Countess for all the help they give her.
Alex added: “They are very supportive here, so when I’m going away they try their best to help me with the rota and if needs be the nurses will try to swap shifts to make it possible, but ultimately my role at the hospital always comes first and Army Reserve commitments are a bonus.”
Alex is not the only Countess employee who will be on parade this weekend, with foundation year one doctor Jonny Beckett attending a service in Stoke with his unit from the 202 Field Hospital.
Jonny, who joined the Army Reserve in 2014 whilst at university and is now a Lieutenant, hopes to continue in his dual role throughout his career.
He recently returned from a two-week training camp in Nevada, which involved going through field hospital simulations alongside the US Marine Corps and adventure training around the Grand Canyon.
“I think being in the Army Reserve is a great thing to have on your CV because you build up different skills and it’s a structured training pathway,” Jonny said. “I’m part of a medical unit as well so I’m with other doctors, nurses, physios and pharmacists so it’s all a bunch of like-minded people. Being active with the reserves also helps me to keep fit.”
Director of nursing and quality Alison Kelly said: “At the Countess we care about all our staff and encourage them to constantly pursue personal development opportunities. Alex and Jonny are perfect examples of how compassionate, caring and determined NHS employees can be. There is also a long history of the NHS working closely with the armed forces and at the Countess we are more than happy to continue supporting this.”
:: The Countess will fall silent for two minutes at 11am on Friday 11 November and Sunday 13 November.