Faithful in adversity… Sounds like the sign off line of a straight to DVD war film, yet there is truth in it that every medical student can identify with. Medical school, and the vocation we have chosen, certainly throws up sufficient adversity to make us all question our sanity, and the merits of Harry Potter studies at Durham. Yet we are still faithful to it even now.
Written by John Millwood Hargrave.
Faithful in adversity. Sounds like the sign off line of a straight to DVD war film, yet there is truth in it that every medical student can identify with. Medical school, and the vocation we have chosen, certainly throws up sufficient adversity to make us all question our sanity, and the merits of Harry Potter studies at Durham. Yet we are still faithful to it even now.
The army may seem at odds with everything that Beauchamps and Childress say about non-maleficence. Seeking out one of the few legal professions in which doing harm to others is a possibility, sounds a rather silly thing to do. I now have 500-1000 words to convince you that I’m not a Call of Duty inspired psychopath, and that joining the RAMC could be one of the best decisions you ever make, and my advice on how to get involved.
I have no family in the Army. Cadets, scouts or wherever passed me by so how exactly I got into it was somewhat of a mystery even now. My first exposure to the army came through the University Officer Training Corpsi (UOTC) which turns out to be one of the few societies that actually pays you for the privilege. The UOTC was great for me. To those who have never heard of it, the UOTC is an offshoot of the Army Reserves, which exposes university students to the army, and offers a (non-committal) route into commissioning as an officer.
Money – Earn around £90 for weekends, and supplement that student loan.
Friends – Sleeping in a 1m2 hole in Cumbria in winter with 3 other men does force some small talk. Manly stuff.
Fun – Unless you suffer from anhedonia, it is impossible not to enjoy running around a field firing a gun. Paintballing and then some.
Adventure training – You can actually get paid to go skiing. I know right?
Qualifications – The UOTC throw opportunities at you for additional qualifications, be it to become an adventure training instructor, Diplomas in Leadership or opportunities to train with the parachute regiment. Your CV is unique and helps you stand out from the crowd.
UOTC is not always perfect for a medical student. The training mainly centres on infantry activities (battle orders, shooting, living in the field) so your medical knowledge isn’t really helped. You are required to go on every other weekend, and these normally result in a sleep
Beautiful day for a stroll
deficiency. A large amount of extra time is needed to keep up with high fitness standards, and you’ll find that balancing UOTC, Medicine and some semblance of a social life is a constant struggle that doesn’t go away.
Consider a Cadetshipii
University is expensive. Since the £9,000 fees came in, we all feel the pinch a little bit more. An army cadetship is worth around £50,000, which starts to come into effect once you’ve reached 3rd year. The money is excellent, but it requires a short-service commission of around 8 years. It is competitive to get, and a series of interviews and tests will decide whether you are going in for the right reasons. The army is not for everyone, make sure you realise that before committing.
Join a local Field Hospitaliii
These are everywhere. They contain a range of nurses, doctors, physiotherapist’s and other health professionals, all of which work in the NHS (you may even recognise a couple). It is a similar structure to the UOTC, but offers a much more medial centred approach, although the infantry side is still essential.
As part of the Field Hospital, you will be pushed into becoming a Professionally Qualified Officer (PQO). This involves a series of tests to find your suitability, as well as going to Sandhurst for a shortened but intense course. This is just the start, with additional training mandatory once you have qualified.
What are the benefits of joining the RAMC?
Pride in being part of the British Army – The British Army is one of the foremost military forces in the world, and punches well above its weight. Escaping the politics, it is generally considered a force for good.
Train with the best to be the best – Big claim I know. The Army has some of the finest Doctors and Surgeons in the county. As a young doctor, you will be shaped by people at the top of their field, using sophisticated training programmes inaccessible to the NHS. The army is consistently future research and development, and you will be a part of that.
Humanitarian aid – With the ending of Afghanistan, future RAMC missions are likely to involve immediate and supportive help to humanitarian disasters.
A life less usual – There’s no doubt that the army offers you a dynamic life, with tours, adventure training and opportunities to challenge yourself in other ways. It might be difficult returning to the NHS afterwards!
Money – Back we go again, but the money is fantastic.
What are the negatives of joining the RAMC?
- Time – It is a large time commitment. In addition to your studies and work, being required to attend weekends, maintain fitness, as well as possible tours in the future can leave you feeling overstretched.
- Family – It’s a profession that may require large periods of time spent away from family and friends, and that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
- Speciality pigeonholing – It is a fact that the army doesn’t need every speciality, and that if you only want to do paediatrics, dermatology or obstetrics and gynaecology, you may be disappointed. Conversely Surgery, Anaesthetics, Emergency medicine and GP’s are highly valued in the army.
Take away points.
The army can offer much to the medical student, as long as the student is honest in their motives and prepared to work hard to be successful. Do not take the commitment lightly. For me, there is nothing I’d rather being doing.