To read about the Operational Experiences of Primary Care Nurse Lt Cdr Lang whilst on Op Herrick 9 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan click here
To read about the Operational Experiences of Community Mental Health Nurse CPONN Rob Lewis whilst on Op Herrick 9 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan click here
My Operational Experience from Op Herrick 5 (10/06 - 04/07) by LNN Janine Whitley
In this photograph LNN Janine Whitley is on the Left with LNN Jenny Dyson (Centre) and LNN Becky McCombe (Right).
I’m a Leading Naval Nurse who has been qualified for 1 1/2 years. In October 2006 I deployed with 3 CDO Brigade to work on the wards in the field hospital in Camp Bastion, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Only ever having been to sea before life in the desert provided a challenging environment in which to experience some of the best and worst nursing moments I have come across in my short time as a nurse.
The main wards on the hospital provide a 25 bedded facility which deals with numerous surgical and medical conditions. Our roles on the ward not only include looking after the welfare of the British and Coalition troops.
After taking the hand over from 16 Close Support, over coming the immediate hurdles such as nursing in a big tent and where all the kit was, along with the acclimatisation to the 50 degree temperatures put us on a good footing for coping with any future challenges.
The accommodation we lived in were big dome tents, which fitted 10 people at a push. The 8 junior rate ward staff lived together in one of these tents and surprisingly for all of us we had very few arguments in the 6 months! Sleeping off nights during the afternoons was nigh on impossible but this thankfully changed as the winter months brought cooler temperatures.
The equipment we have is the same at the NHS but on a much smaller scale and more than sufficient. The ward is also a fantastic environment for being able to fully implement basic nursing skills, which is often brushed over in the NHS environment due to patient load and time restraints.
The Nurses and HCA’s are responsible for doing everything on the wards from twice a day cleaning (due to the very persistent dust), folding the laundry and collecting the patient’s meals and attending to all their holistic needs. Most of us enjoy these tasks as they make the ward your own and to have a clean smart ward running efficiently due to our own efforts enhances the want to provide the best care.
The most testing times during the deployment for was coming to terms with were the traumatic injuries our lads had sustained on the ground and also helping them to come to terms with it.
These testing times however were greatly over shadowed by the great experiences I have gained from this tour. Even though some of the lads did have significant injuries my colleagues and I did our best to give them the best care we possibly could and to endeavourer to keep their morale high and the military banter going. This also made nursing them very emotional as we became instrumental in the first stages of their rehabilitation.
The wards throughout the tour were nearly always busy and the ward team always seemed to get stronger as the tour went on and guaranteed a high standard of care to all patients all of the time.
Regular Clinical Supervision was given throughout the tour to provide support to the ward staff that offered reassurance and a chance for us to air problems about our practice or traumatic situations. We also used each other as another anti-stress mechanism as we had bonded really well and understood if things went wrong at home or even if we just needed a hug.
Our spare time was filled with numerous activities such as the ‘Afghanathon’ (a charity event rowing the length of the Thames, cycling the Tour de France Route, or running the distance from John O’Groats to Lands End), a casino night, a stars in your eyes competition, film nights, reading, socialising and a Cdrs Cup Compitition.
Overall this deployment has been extremely rewarding. I have been lucky enough to work with very professional colleagues in a fantastic learning environment doing exactly the sort of nursing that I have joined the QARNNS for.