A career in the medical wing of the armed forces is unique. Life here gives the aspiring candidate an opportunity to be trained extensively and also play a vital role for his or her unit and country, even in the war zone. A selected cadet can be placed in an RAF, Army or Naval base. He or she can be part of the armed forces unit in NHS hospitals.
The armed forces offer a structured career path. The responsibilities and experience are similar to civilian duties or service. However what makes this career different is the places and conditions in which a military medical officer will have to serve and looked upon to deliver.
Selection or Recruitment
An aspiring candidate can join the armed forces while studying in the medical college. Interested candidates can apply for Medical Cadetship. For instance, to join the Royal Army Medical Corps they have to contact the RAMC Officer. Most doctors join the various Forces through this process of cadetship. Each of the forces sponsor the study in return for six years of service, after the foundation training. Some doctors join at a later date in their training or after being fully qualified. There are shortages of trained doctors, such as GP, in a few hospital specialities.
The British Army awards up to 30 medical cadetship every year. They are even sponsored through part of their medical degree. In fact there are provisions for financial aid to support the studying of a medical degree. On completion, further studies can be possible, right up to the candidate’s 46th birthday, on condition that he or she passes the selection tests, and joins.
The Royal Air Force awards up to 25 medical cadetships in a year. The doctor cadets after their foundation programme do the 13 week specialist entrant and re-entrant course. Further military medical training is split between the Defence Medical Services Training Centre, Keogh Barracks, Hampshire, the RAF College, Cranwell, and RAF Centre of Aviation Medicine, RAF Henlow, Bedfordshire.
The Royal Navy offers in a year, up to 15 medical cadetships. After foundation doctors are placed in a MOD hospital unit. Later they undergo officer training at Dartmouth, plus a new entry medical officer’s course at the Institute of Naval Medicine. Five direct entry doctors are also taken yearly.
Veterinary doctors can join The Royal Army Veterinary Corps (RAVC) which provides a challenging and varied employment. This service is involved in use and care for military service animals, from procurement to retirement, in training practice and preventative medicine.
Commissioning & experience
Medical officers start their first commission after registration and a short-term posting at a medical centre to get experience in the forces.
In the RAF, a medic will join as Flight Lieutenant or Squadron Leader on a short commission of 3 to 4 years, and later can opt for medium commission of 18 years. After the first appointment they undergo specialist training in a hospital specialty, or occupational medicine, or in public health or start vocational training in general practice at an MDHU or NHS hospital. All Post-graduate Training follow the Civilian Royal colleges or as civilian medical training in typical specializations like anesthetics, psychiatry, general surgery, ENT, or orthopedics.
Once Army doctors complete their specialist training, GPs serve as regimental medical officers caring for soldiers and their families in military posts in UK, Germany, Cyprus, Brunei, etc. Medical officers could be needed in anything from recovering someone from an accident in training to transporting casualties in operational environment.
In the Royal Navy the junior medics get general duties assigned to a ship, or a submarine, or the Royal Marines, for two and a half to three years. He or she will get support from senior medical officers on shore and are well trained and prepared. Medics who are assigned to a Royal Marine unit get a chance to undergo the all arms commando course.
Life in Uniform
Medics have ample opportunities in the armed forces to pursue sports or adventurous activities, like mountaineering or shooting. One has to be an officer and a doctor, a person with professional training and academic qualifications, but also have strong leadership skills. He or she will be required to go whenever or wherever needed, maybe into the middle of a war zone.
Interest to Serve
Contrary to expectations ongoing conflicts don’t seem to deter doctors from joining the armed forces and in fact seems to lead to more interest. Healthcare professionals seem to be attracted by high profile conflicts, the chance to practice in challenging environs, and the variety of military life and military medicine, according to senior military medics. Doctors entering the different services are trained differently. There are also roles in the reservist organizations, such as, the Royal Navy Reserves, the RAF Reserves and the Territorial Army.
There are UK based medical recruitment consultancy authorized to provide placement with the military at home and abroad. The respective websites of the armed forces have details about recruitment and eligibility for medical careers.
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