Colette is Flying High

Most of us are keen to have a good work-life balance, spending time relaxing with friends and family, pursuing hobbies and generally winding down after a hectic few days at the sharp end. However critical care nurse Collette Mckay merely swaps one uniform for another, as she moves from Forth Valley Royal Hospital to Armed Forces training.

Collette, who bears the rank of Corporal, is an RAF Reservist Nurse currently serving at 612 Squadron Fife, which provides medical and nursing personnel to support the UK military. She is one of around 2,000 Medical Reservists who work within the NHS by day and serve in the Armed Forces in their free time. It’s a role which she clearly loves and embraces.

She explained: “I qualified as a nurse five years ago and I’m currently work as a critical care nurse supporting patients and their families through episodes of critical illness. I work shifts as part of a large team in an unpredictable, rapidly evolving, technologically advanced environment and love to be constantly learning.

“I have been an RAF Reservist on 612 Squadron for four years. Before I joined I had no military experience and didn’t know anyone who did. The people I’ve met, the skills I’ve gained and the places I’ve travelled are truly unforgettable. The training commitment is so flexible so it really suits my need to have a good work-life balance.

“I spend one weekend every month training, in addition to 15 days of continuous training which can be split up in to sections. Every training venture challenges me mentally and physically which I thoroughly enjoy. I have met some of my best friends through the RAF and networked with a variety of people from different backgrounds.

“Basic training at RAF Halton in 2017 completely pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped build the character that I am today. Any time things are a bit rough, I think at least I’m not at basic training! I am slightly joking but it was eye-opening stuff.

“In 2018, I travelled to 911 Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron in Pittsburgh, USA. We participated in the United States Air Force (USAF) Medical Reserves training, planned a successful training exercise and contributed to establishing the strong relationship we now hold with this squadron.

“In March I was in Norway for an extreme cold weather training event where I learned to cross-country ski. I trained alongside Norwegian Reservists in cold weather first aid and experienced the culture of Norway. I was also buried in a simulated avalanche and got ‘rescued’ by search and rescue dogs! I have such a love for dogs, so this made me so happy.

“My civilian job involves a lot of natural physical, emotional and mental stressors but being a Reservist provides me with opportunities to get involved in travel, sports and adventurous training.

“The past four years have given me the chance to crossover my two roles. I am applying my skills and experience from the Reserves in my civilian role including leadership, management, initiative, team working, confidence and problem-solving skills. Thanks to the RAF, I have a leadership qualification and skills that I can use in my civilian role. Thanks to the NHS, I have all these existing clinical skills and expertise which are so easily transferable into any other environment.

“Managers in my ward are extremely supportive of my RAF ‘career’ and I have been speaking to colleagues about my experiences as a Reserve which has sparked interest from other staff. I would say to anyone thinking of joining up to go for it as it’s just amazing and a great opportunity.”