Armed Forces Week: celebrating our staff who serve community and country
This week is Armed Forces Week – a chance for people to show thanks and support for the Armed Forces community whether it’s currently serving troops, their families, veterans or cadets. Here at UHS it’s a chance for us to celebrate those members of our workforce who are also reservists with the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force or British Army.
Emergency Department consultant nurse Sarah Charters, 52, who is our lead for mental health, safeguarding and vulnerability in the department, has been part of the UHS family for 21 years. She has also been an RAF reservist for the past 31 years and served on the frontline four times.
Within a year of signing up she deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1991 during the first Gulf War. Twelve years later, in 2003, Sarah served in Iraq – working as an in-flight nurse, flying in and out of Basra to extract patients who were then returned to the UK for medical treatment.
In 2007 came her third RAF deployment, this time to Afghanistan where she flew within the war-torn country treating seriously wounded soldiers and civilians, as well as caring for UK military patients on aeromedical flights back to the UK.
Her most recent deployment was in 2010 when she returned to Afghanistan, taking charge of the emergency department at the former British military base Camp Bastion during the busiest 3-months of trauma care of the Afghan campaign.
Here at UHS when the COVID pandemic hit, it was Sarah’s vast experience as a reservist both working in and running field medical facilities that made her the obvious choice to help plan and prepare for a surge in critically ill patients that would mean opening a temporary hospital offering extra capacity elsewhere in the city.
Speaking about her role in the RAF, Sarah said: “I decided to become a reservist because I wanted the opportunity to use my nursing skills in both military and NHS settings and, of course, for a little adventure. I believe there is no greater honour for a nurse than to care for those who are willing risk their lives for their country.
“The two elements of my nursing career have run parallel to, and very much compliment, each other. Working within the military has taught me the importance of skilled leadership and how much can be achieved by a dynamic, empowered team, all of whom share a common goal.
“Swapping aeromedical evacuation and world-leading trauma care for mental health crisis care, adult safeguarding and vulnerable adult support is quite a change but I am convinced the work we undertake within these fields at UHS can be equally life-saving.”