By Private Sophie Monkman, 207 (Manchester) Field Hospital, 5th Year Medical Student, The University of Manchester.
“I took the opportunity to arrange my six-week Medical Elective and Annual Camp with the Army Medical Reserves. I discussed my wishes with my supervisor, the unit’s Permanent Staff Administration Officer (PSAO), who supported this for my clinical development and future primary care ambitions, as well as an opportunity to gain insight into overseas Military Medicine.
“I spent six weeks at Dhekalia Medical Reception Station (MRS), Cyprus. I spent time with the whole multi-disciplinary team (MDT), including the community healthcare team, to gain insight into the services for the whole base, 2000 personnel including families. I appreciate the importance of healthcare support on your doorstep for such isolated bases. It was positive to see the amalgamation of tri-Service staff, whether Regular, Reserve or civilian; all worked together inter-professionally and effectively. It was refreshing to see the staff enthusiasm and team ethos, which I feel was reflected by their patients’ trust and morale. The team made sure they made time for a mid-morning tea break. This reiterated the benefits of taking a break, encouraging team bonding and overall helps to promote efficiency, preventing burnout – an ever increasing issue in the NHS.
“The main similarities to the UK were the wide range of specialities, providing support to not just military personnel but also their families, covering a large variety of Paediatrics and Gynaecology. This gave me the opportunity of contributing my help running clinics and consultations.
“Due to the potential emotional strains such as isolation of families, it reiterated the importance of accessible mental health support for both personnel and their dependents, who have often moved abroad and frequently uprooted from their friends and family.
“The medical centre has a Resus Emergency Room and Ambulance callout for 112 calls, which covers care for local Cypriot emergencies too. This helped me to develop and keep up to date in acute care management, which comparatively aren’t often indicated in a civilian GP Surgery.
“There is considerable support for patients regarding Occupational Health and making sure they’re operationally effective as I appreciate the impact musculoskeletal injuries can have on patient’s lives.
“This reiterated the importance of providing early physiotherapy support and exercise rehab instructors (ERIs) who work closely with the doctors. I developed my understanding regarding musculoskeletal injury management and the excellent tailored support available.
“There are so many opportunities available on Cyprus Island alongside the placement. I immersed myself into base life, arriving just in time for the Officers Summer Ball on their very own beachfront and watching the world cup games whilst attempting to make pizzas in the pizza oven! Staying in the station mess was a great chance to meet new tri-Service personnel each week and the food was incredible, with endless halloumi on offer! Visiting the buffer zone was very interesting, learning more about the history that occurred during the conflict (1970s) and the current United Nations tour.
“The base had its own water sports centre open to all, so we took the opportunity to dabble in some paddle boarding and canoeing. I’m a strong believer in the benefits of Adventure Training (AT) and always try to take any opportunity for learning new outdoor skills. I was grateful to attend the Rock Climbing Foundation (RCF) course. I feel this fulfilled the aims of AT, I was definitely stretched out of my comfort zone whilst hanging (intentionally) upside down on a 50m crag and trusting my belayer!
“Overall, I’ve had an enjoyable and inspiring elective placement and Annual Camp. It’s provided me with valuable insight into military medicine, and also a taste of Army Base life. It also gave me the chance to relax in the sun, much needed after the stress of fourth year Medical School exams. I would happily return here as a potential GP in the future. I recognise the value of this opportunity and encourage other Students and Medical Reservists to experience placements here. As a Reservist it gives you the flexibility of volunteering for these opportunities and I would recommend making sure to grasp them with both hands, I’m so grateful!”