The life of a radiographer in the Army Medical Services Reserve

Ever had an inspiring interest to take your profession and use it to take you all over the world, challenge you in ways you never thought possible and all whilst having the flexibility to do this when you want and whilst getting paid for it?  What other job gives you these opportunities, the British Army and from my perspective the Reserve element of it.

I found myself joining the Reserves in 2006 as an army radiographer, a decision that has to have been one of the best life opportunities I could have ever given myself.  My 17 years in the ‘Reserves’ has enhanced both my personal and professional life allowing me to develop and become the motivated and focused radiographer I am today.

The Army Reserve has given me some amazing opportunities from adventure training in the USA, Canada and Nepal (to name drop a few) to working in conflict zones, to proud leadership roles and responsibilities leading teams and encouraging the achievements of others and seeing them flourish.

I have been able to enhance my radiography career in many ways, by having had multiple clinical CPD opportunities with multi-nation collaboration. Worked with so many variations of equipment, capability and personnel over the years which has in general enhanced my broader knowledge and outlook on how differing radiology departments are managed.  By instilling values and standards and varied leadership roles, I have taken on within the army I have undoubtedly influenced my own style of management, which I take back and apply to my lead role within the NHS.  The military discipline and influence has grounded me and made me a better communicator, organiser and leader as well as the ability to adapt to changing situation.  Only a few months ago I found myself leading a 13-person expedition to Annapurna Base camp at high altitude. Just one recent example of what it takes to lead and organise something as demanding and challenging and very different from the day job as a radiographer.

With the opportunities, for leadership exposure, travel and endless other niche activities, and an endless list of training qualifications you can gain along the way the army truly delivers its promise to grow and develop its soldiers.

Deployments have ultimately been the pinnacle of my service with several deployments to Afghanistan, Camp Bastion, to only last year supporting UN peacekeeping missions in Mali. Again, not something you find in your normal civilian diary. My last deployment saw me become part of a Ground Manoeuvre Surgical Group, which saw the role of the radiographer deploy out on the ground and become front line, operating hundreds of kilometres from a static base as part of a manoeuvrable mini field hospital (which we had to build and drop every time we moved!).  X-raying and scanning patients quite literally in the sub-Saharan desert.  Each deployment and experience differs but they always manage to push you out of your comfort zone, overwhelm you at times but you are trained to focus and be resilient both mentally and physically, developing skills that cannot not be taught in a classroom or any course. Imagine the buzz, the freedom and opportunities that give you a true sense of belonging, this is feeling deployment can give you.

I cannot advocate more for joining the Army Medical Services Reserve as an enhancement to your role as a radiographer and as an inspiring choice of career either as a regular soldier with full commitment or part time as a reservist. The opportunities are endless and all you have to do is take them.

Submitted by Maj McConnell (RAMC), Army Medical Services Reserve

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