From Combat Medic to Neuro Assistant Practitioner: A Journey of Skill Transfer and Personal Growth

From Combat Medic to Neuro Assistant Practitioner: A Journey of Skill Transfer and Personal Growth

Introducing Sarah Whyte, a dedicated Assistant Practitioner and Reserve Forces Champion working in North Manchester. With a passion for patient care and a commitment to serving her country, Sarah’s journey embodies the intersection of healthcare and military service. As a valued member of the Community Stroke and Neuro Team, Sarah’s unique role showcases her dedication to both her patients and her fellow service members. Join us as we delve into Sarah’s inspiring story of balancing her civilian career with her duties as a Reserve Forces Champion, making a difference in the lives of those she serves both in and out of uniform.

I started my army career as an Armed Forces Reservist seven years ago when I was working within the NHS as a Band 2 Healthcare Assistant on a brain and spinal unit. I joined as a Combat Medical Technician to gain transferable skills I could implement into the NHS and gain training you wouldn’t receive anywhere else. Whilst working at the unit, I witnessed how a patient’s quality of life improved significantly from the input given by the therapists which made me want to pursue a career in rehab. I gained a job within the Community Rehab Team in North Manchester as a Band 3 Rehab Support Worker. With support from my managers, I progressed to where I am today which is the Band 4 Assistant Practitioner within the Community Stroke and Neuro team within North Manchester.

Since joining the community teams within North Manchester, I have been fully supported all the way regarding my army reserve career by my manager Tracy Walker. Tracy is a veteran herself so understands the skills and attributes a career in the military can bring. Every year I complete a two-week camp and ensure I complete my assured weekends to achieve my certificate of efficiency.

I balance my army career and my life as an Assistant Practitioner (AP) within the Neuro team with the support of my colleagues by making sure they are ok to cover my weekends when I need to complete my assured training and they support me in covering my patient visits when I’m away on camp. I stay current in both my areas of work by keeping a CPD of all my training. I reflect on any training I have attended whether this be within my military or AP role. This is to show evidence that I am competent within both my roles and I’m up to date with policies and procedures within the NHS and military.

I have had the opportunity to attend leadership courses, medical courses, teaching courses, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), trauma stress management course, all of which have given me skills to transfer into my role within the team. I’d say the military has given me the confidence to lead more and shown the importance of working as part of a team within my role as an AP. During my military training I’ve had to stay calm and collected under pressure and have had to improvise, adapt, and overcome to achieve the task at hand which is a skill I have brought to the Neuro team. I was awarded the Directors coin for my leadership skills when appointed second in command of my platoon when deployed to Croatia, which is an achievement I’ll never forget.

Within Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) I assisted the Armed Forces task and finish group in making the trust a veteran aware hospital and policies implemented to support our armed forces reservists. I had a passion to pursue this due to my brother suffering with PTSD from his time within Afghanistan. Now MFT has a system within HIVE which flags up if a patient is a veteran, meaning they can be signposted to the relevant service or charity they need.

Recently I represented MFT at the Careers Transition Partnership (CTP) jobs fair at AJ Bell stadium for service leavers. I was on hand to support service leavers and discuss the job opportunities available within MFT. I assisted them in signing up to the step into health programme which helps people apply for jobs and discuss the opportunities available within the NHS as leaving the services can be a daunting process.

I had a memorable experience recently when I was speaking with a patient who explained they used to be in the women’s royal army corps. The patient didn’t realise they were entitled to their veteran’s badge to acknowledge their service. They explained they were only in for four years which I replied you are classed as a veteran if you just served one day in the army. I assisted them to apply for their veteran’s badge and a few weeks later it came through the post. It was great to hear that it had made their week when it arrived.

I’d encourage anyone to join the army reserves. There are so many opportunities and skills you can transfer into your civilian job. This year I will be completing my class 1 Combat Medic course which will give me the skills to work on my own competently if ever deployed. I am also completing 2 weeks adventurous training with my regiment in California trekking in the wilderness within Yosemite national park. I will also be receiving the coronation medal of King Charles for my services within the armed forces.

My vision is to continue my development throughout my army career and progress further within my role within the Community Neuro team.

Tracy Walker, Lead AHP in North Locality, MLCO, said: “We value Sarah in our community rehab services. She has shown great commitment to developing her career in MLCO alongside her reservist role. She is currently looking to progress to a qualified physiotherapist via the apprentice route.  This is a great example of progression in the MLCO from a Band 2 through to hopefully a qualified Physiotherapist one day. As a veteran myself, I recognise the importance as a manager of supporting reservists like Sarah in our services and all the transferable skills reservists bring to our teams. I was in the Royal Air Force for 4 years, started as a Healthcare Assistant and progressed to university to train as an Occupational Therapist, gained a master’s degree and I am now the Lead AHP in the MLCO.  Well done Sarah for your work in MFT, supporting MFT to become a veteran aware trust is a real achievement as well as the medals you have received in the army for recognition of your leadership in Croatia and for your services in the armed forces. We should be encouraging more reservists and veterans to explore careers in the NHS as Sarah and I are examples of what we can bring to the NHS.”

Link to Apply for a Veteran’s Badge here.

Apply for an HM Armed Forces Veteran Card (to make it quicker and easier to access support as a veteran)