Retaining talent: a reservist career spanning 25 years

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Dr Mike Almond is a general physician and consultant nephrologist at Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and wing commander of 4626 squadron. He has worked at the trust for the past 25 years, and the support they give allows him to fulfil his military duties. 

In this blog, Mike shares his experiences of being a reservist, how his additional skills have benefited his civilian career and why he has stayed with the trust for a long period of time.

I joined the Royal Air Force Medical Reservists in 1989 after volunteering at my university’s Air Squadron System. Immediately after initial officer training I was mobilised for the first Gulf war. Over the next decade, during the course of my consultant post at Southend, I became officer commanding the squadron. This entailed a further mobilisation for the second Gulf war, assisting in the tri-service environment with the Defence Medical Services, experiencing multinational working with the NATO and my most recent mobilisation as a consultant physician in the hospital at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.

When I applied for my first and only consultant role, I was already an established reservist. I was very anxious about how my reserve commitment would be perceived by hospital management and potential consultant colleagues. In fact I was delighted to discover that both groups were interested and fully supportive of my service with the Royal Auxiliary Air force (RAF). I’m also happy to say, that my potential for mobilisation and need for additional leave for training didn’t affect my application. In fact, the experience I had gained, particularly on deployment, was seen as a positive reason to appoint me.

Throughout my time at the trust, they have been extremely supportive of many reservists and their duties. This includes offering two weeks paid leave, as well as the opportunity for managers to be able to offer additional unpaid leave under certain circumstances. During my deployment they also worked with the Ministry of Defence so they could plan for my time away from the trust, this collaboration also helped to get colleague and patient support. 

Their support and positive engagement with the Armed Forces is one of the main reasons I remain at the trust. Their dedication has not just been noticed by me but by other reservists as well, including one member of my squadron who transferred his civilian nursing job to Southend University Hospital after hearing about all the support reservists were given. 

The trust recognises the valuable contribution that reservists make to the UK Armed Forces, their communities and the workplace. In particular, they recognise the reservists training allows them to develop skills and abilities that are of benefit to their respective Reserve Force, the individual and the trust. Therefore offering their reservist employees two weeks paid leave to manage these commitments.

From personal experience, my training and deployments have given me many useful skills that I can use in my consulting job at the trust. Not only can I work under pressure, the RAF’s focus on leadership and management skills means I can positively contribute to the team and enable others to succeed. 

This trust recognises how useful these skills are in the reservist's civilian role, as well as for their team and the wider organisation.  Sue Hardy, chief executive at Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said:

“We recognise the useful skills that reservists and veterans bring to the trust and because of this we value their employment within the organisation. To support reservists we provide them with the flexibility to attend their annual training, understanding that this knowledge is often transferred back into the hospital. The unique experiences and transferable skills that reservists and veterans bring to the trust, developed through their training and operational deployments, add value to our services. In the case of reservists, the returns from employing members of the Reserve Forces outweigh the perceived costs incurred through the small amounts of time taken away from their roles.”

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