Interview: Helen Ormerod from Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust

Respiratory staff nurse, Helen Ormerod enjoys a full time role with the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (RDE) and is also a Reservist. Civvy Street spoke with her to find out how she balances both commitments as well as how RDE looks after people connected with the Forces.

When you joined RDE, how did you introduce the idea of your Reservist commitments?

I was initially quite nervous. I didn’t think the ward staff would know much about it and it might’ve appeared as though I was trying to blag a bit of free time off – but my matron was really receptive. There is legislation in place to  help (support Reservists) but I just came in and said: “I’m part of the Army Reserves; I’ll try to work my shift around the time I need off”. The only thing I am obliged to do each year is a two week camp – one week paid, and one week unpaid from the NHS – and they are more than happy for me to go. They’re really, really good here.

There seems to be real support for the Armed Forces community at RDE…

Our director of nursing (is ex-Military) and is always really supportive about getting people with the right experiences in the right places within the Trust.

There are several senior members of staff and consultants that are ex-Military so they realise the potential for the learning that you get with the Army as well as the resilience, self-confidence and leadership skills you receive through Army training.

The NHS as a whole is one of the best employers of people from the Military but the RDE in particular has got so many (senior) people from the Military that they’re really supportive.

Does being a Reservist make you a better nurse?

It makes me quite robust and resilient. That helps if you’ve got an intense situation and you need to be quite calm in dealing with several things at once.

With the Reserves people are still gaining that skill mix and all that camaraderie. I think it’s a useful thing. The Reserves and the NHS complement each other very well.

Why should a Service-leaver pick RDE over other NHS trusts?

You’ve got all of the benefits of living in a big city but you don’t have the traffic and a two-hour rush hour! You’ve got a really rural setting straight outside the door and links with all of the trusts around Devon which have all got specialties. I for example, work in respiratory, and Derriford Hospital in Plymouth is a thoracic centre so I’ve gained a bit of experience from them.

I went to university in Bristol to do the big city thing and hated it. I missed the clean air and the big green spaces; not the little parks but the rivers, meadows, countryside, the walking – all of that. That’s why I came back to Exeter. But you still get city living. It’s a friendly place too.

“There are several senior members of staff and consultants that are ex-Military so they realise the potential for the learning that you get with the Army.”

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