Capt. Jan Dodd Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps
Jan has a vast range of experience gained from a variety of posts over 14 years in the NHS followed by 5 years with the Queen Alexandra's Army Nursing Corps. During her time in the QA's she has had several postings to Iraq where she was able to make use of her broad range of skills. She is now able to use her first hand experiences, in her role in Nurse Recruitment, to help explain what Army Nursing is all about.
RGN, RM, BSC Autonomous Healthcare Practice, Diploma in Nursing, ENB 199 (A&E), ALS Instructor
14 years in the NHS working a variety of jobs
5 years as a Nursing Officer in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC)
I always wanted to be a nurse for as long as I can remember. I did not do very well at school and was not asked back to the sixth form so I decided to undertake a Pre Nursing Course at my local college. I applied to several schools of nursing and chose to go to Brent and Harrow School of Nursing, it was what you could call “old school” training but I learnt a lot and those skills have remained with me ever since.
On qualifying as a Registered General Nurse I started working on a male gastroenterology ward at my training hospital, here I really started to learn what it was to be a qualified nurse. I worked here for 18 months before moving to one of the big London hospitals to work in their Endoscopy Suite where I stayed for 22 months. For six months of this time I was acting Sister which gave me a great introduction to the managerial side of nursing. Although I thoroughly enjoyed working in Endoscopy, I found it could be very repetitive and so decided to return to my training hospital to work in the Short Stay Surgical unit. I was only there for a short time when I was given the opportunity to work alongside one of the urology consultants and the Kings Fund Centre in the formation of a “one stop” urology service. I even appeared on Breakfast News! After working for some time in this new and exciting role I was interviewed and given the job of Urology Clinical manager responsible for the day to day running of a urology ward and outpatient department. I even had the opportunity to visit Minneapolis in the USA to see how they managed their urology care. It was a great learning experience as well as an enjoyable trip. After two years in the job I began to get itchy feet and decided a complete change was required.
I applied for and was accepted by the North London Blood Transfusion Service as a Sister on their mobile blood transfusion service. My day to day role consisted of being the clinical lead on a transfusion session, carrying out all the venepunctures and maintaining donor well being. A family move meant that I transferred to the North Yorkshire Blood Transfusion Service. After working for over two years in Blood transfusion I felt that I needed a change of direction and I decided to train as a Midwife. I did enjoy my training and the subsequent 18 months I spent practicing but felt that it was really not for me! I started working on the Bank at my local A&E Department and when the opportunity arrived I applied for and was given a permanent job. I undertook my ENB 199 and felt that I had finally found my perfect job!
The hospital I worked for became an MDHU – a Ministry of Defence Hospital Unit, the NHS Trust and the MOD became partners in the running of the hospital and the staff was made up of both military and civilian nurses. I started to speak to some of the military A&E nurses I worked with and soon realised that the Army could possibly offer the career I always wanted. As you can see from the above I am not a person who likes to sit still in one job for very long!
It took me a year to apply for the Army but I was successful at the Army Officer selection Board and was commissioned into the QARANC as a Lieutenant. The Entry Officers’ Course was hard but very rewarding. I had never experience any military training before so some of it did come as a bit of a shock but at the end of it I felt I had achieved an enormous amount, met some fantastic people and made some great friends. I was also very proud of myself!
Due to the fact I had been qualified for 14 years, I was quickly promoted to Captain and seven weeks after completing my officer training I was deployed to Iraq to work in the A&E Department of the Field Hospital. Although I was nervous; going away with the Army was one of the reasons I joined. We were away for only 6 weeks but in that time I learnt how to put the skills that I learnt during my officer training into practice. Three months after returning from Iraq I was deployed again, this time to a Dressing Station (a small medical facility consisting of an A&E and a Ward). This time I was given more responsibility and by the end of my time out there I had assumed the role of Senior Nursing Officer, this gave me a chance to extend my military as well as my nursing skills.
On my return from Iraq I was posted into A&E at MDHU Portsmouth. Here I was able to continue to expand on my A&E knowledge working in the main department and in a nurse led treatment centre. My next posting was to the A&E Department at MDHU Frimley Park in Surrey. Instead of continuing to work in the main department, I was given the role of “Breech Buster”! This meant I was responsible for making sure no patient was in the department for more than 4 hrs. It was quite a stressful job but it further increased my management experience. My third tour of Iraq quickly followed and I was working in a mainly Primary Healthcare Setting in Basra, although my A&E skills were called upon frequently. It was here that I learnt to work with a small team in a restricted environment. The team consisted of myself, a doctor, registered nurse corporal and a health care assistant sergeant. We were responsible for providing health care for approximately 800 troops. On my return from Iraq I started my BSC in Autonomous healthcare Practice. I personally find studying at degree level very hard work but I made it through the course and now have developed skills allowing me to work autonomously in certain situations. This means in the Minor Injuries Unit I am able to see, diagnose and treat various injuries without the presence of a doctor.
Currently I am working in Nurse Recruitment for the Army, encouraging and recruiting registered nurses, student nurses and HCAs to join the QARANC. This shows one of the main benefits of joining the QARANC; you get the opportunity to work in other areas that are not clinically based. Working non-clinically gives you the chance to experience the broader Army and how it functions, increasing your overall knowledge and experience. The Army also encourages you to undertake military courses, some of which are essential if we want to be promoted.
What would I have done differently?
The only regret I have in life is that I didn’t join the Army a lot sooner!
What advice would you offer?
- Joining the Army is not for everyone but if you do feel it’s for you then you are looking at a career that offers you a great lifestyle, good pay, fantastic professional development and friends that last a lifetime.
- However, if you do not want to go away for potentially six months at a time or if you feel that you would not want to change jobs every two years then maybe it’s not for you.
- Get fit and keep fit, we are required to take a fitness test twice a year throughout our Army career.
- Be very clear in your own mind about why you want to join – you will be asked!
Who offered you the best career advice... and did you take it?
An A&E Nursing Officer in the QARANC and yes I did, I joined the Army!
What have you liked least about your working life?
Going away and leaving my family and friends, but the coming home is great!
What have you enjoyed most?
Getting to use my skills in environments that were both new and challenging and proving to myself that I could do it.
Was there any event which was pivotal in your career?
Joining the Army.