Nursing: Afghanistan


The Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service (PMRAFNS) is committed to providing a skilled, knowledgeable and able nursing workforce to deliver high quality care, whilst being responsive to the dynamic nature of RAF Nursing in peacetime and on operations.

Below, we find out what it's like to be a senior nurse on tour in Afghanistan and how well our reservist nurses are integrated with full time nursing staff.

Squadron Leader Jane Thomson

Sqn ldr jane thomson

I am 47 years old, and I am a senior nurse with a wide range of nursing experience. I've been nursing for approximately 28 years, but it certainly doesn't feel like it. Doesn't time fly. I am married with two daughters.

At home in Scotland I currently hold the position of lead Head and Neck Clinical Nurse Specialist working in HNS Forth Valley, a job which I dearly love. I completed my postgraduate studies and graduated from the University of Dundee having completed an MSc in Advanced Practice. Over the past 9 years I have been a member of 612 Sqn, Royal Auxiliary Air force, based at RAF Leuchars. I joined the Sqn to fine-tune my management and leadership skills. In 2003 the Sqn deployed to Cyprus to augment The Princess Mary Hospital at RAF Akrotiri, which was in support of Op TELIC 1. We eventually deployed forward to deliver a Role 2+ capability to support 1 CS Med Regt in Al Amarah. I was a Corporal at the time, but returned to the UK and was successful in obtaining a Commission. In 2006 I then deployed to the Role 2+ in Shiabah Log Base, Iraq. I now find myself here in Afghanistan, with 34 Field Hospital, part of the Joint Force Support (A) Medical Group. I am the officer in charge of the wards with a capacity of up to 50 beds.

This deployment stands out from all others. I am working with an amazing team of professionals and have found all my leadership skills tested to the full. My biggest challenge has been to build a new multinational and tri-service team from scratch.

I am accommodated in a tented pod with 7 other Heads of Department. The food is just great, with up to eight choices at each sitting and you can even get ice cream. In the desert! My working hours are Mon-Sun, 0800 till late. No two days are ever the same out here. Even the weather has been somewhat changeable with showers, just like Scotland, but with a bit more sand and higher temperatures.

Corporal Lewis MacLeod

Cpl lewis macleodI'm an RAF Reservist based at RAF Leuchars in Scotland. I'm normally a nurse in the NHS so I'm out here doing my day job, currently as a ward nurse at the hospital at Camp Bastion.

My first impressions of this country are that although they say this place is a desert, it's actually a massive bowl of clinging, cloying beige dust that gets everywhere. The sandstorms ("duststorms?") look like fog, but burn your eyes and choke you. The other peculiarity of this place is the noise. Helicopter sirens, aircon units constantly hum and gurgle and there are people speaking a hundred different languages - this place is truly multinational.

The hospital deals with ISAF personnel and Afghan civilians caught up in the conflict, but everyone is treated exactly the same regardless of where they come from. The Geneva Convention is taken very seriously out here. It can be challenging working with the injured children at first, but fortunately your skills kick-in enabling you to deliver the best possible care. The language barrier is another issue, but the interpreters are very good, and I've picked up a little Pashtu already. The hours are very long, and some of the injuries are truly challenging, but the work is extremely rewarding.

There's a good gym right next to the accommodation, so I've managed to keep up a good fitness programme. The food can be a hit or a miss affair – there's only ever one vegetarian option and it tends to all be the same veggie mince variant every day, but there's a big selection of meats for everyone else.

Photography: RAF/MOD/Crown Copyright 2010.

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