Scrubs to camouflage
4 June 2018
Canberra nurse, Ali Reardon, wore camouflage instead of scrubs for her recent overseas endeavour.
In February, the Army Reservist, who in her civilian role works at the Canberra Hospital's Emergency Department, deployed on Operation Highroad to Afghanistan.
Nursing Officer Capt Alison Reardon, an instructor at the Army School of Health, is deployed to the UK-led Role 1 Medical Treatment Facility at Camp Qargha, near Kabul.
Camp Qargha is home to the Australian and coalition troops who work as advisers or force support elements at the Marshal Fahim National Defence University.
Capt Reardon said the staff at the medical facility comprised UK and Australian medical officers, nursing officers and medics.
“It’s a great team and fantastic to work with coalition health care professionals in a NATO environment,” she said.
“Our main role at Camp Qargha is primary health care and we see on average 12 patients a day, including Australian, coalition forces and civilian contractors.
“Easy access to health care boosts the morale of the troops and our approachable, welcoming staff have a positive impact.
“It can be quiet here at times, which is a good sign, because it means everyone’s healthy.”
About 300 ADF personnel are deployed on Operation Highroad, which is the ADF's commitment to NATO's Resolute Support mission.
The purpose of Resolute Support is to help the Afghan security forces and institutions develop the capacity to defend Afghanistan and protect its citizens in a sustainable manner.
A nursing officer’s responsibilities at Camp Qargha include patient admission, assessments, working in the resuscitation bay, managing the ward, infection control and clinical governance.
Capt Reardon said the force preparation for the Australian medical staff included training in Townsville for two months with 3RAR soldiers of the Force Protection Element.
“This included mass casualty exercises, point-of-injury training and working out of a medical backpack to prepare us for working in an isolated Role 1 facility,” she said.
“Working in a Role 1 Medical Treatment Facility made us think differently about how we would manage and assess patients, because we couldn’t just roll them down the hall to surgery like at home (Canberra Hospital).
“The training at Lavarack Barracks also helped us to get to know the soldiers we would be deploying with for the next six months.”
As a Master of Advanced Practice in Emergency and a rural and isolated practice endorsed registered nurse, Capt Reardon said her civilian experience in emergency, triage, resuscitation and trauma transferred well to a military medical facility in Afghanistan.
“As the solo nurse working in the Camp Qargha trauma bay, I felt well prepared to manage critically unwell or injured patients,” she said.
“My role in Afghanistan also gave me more opportunities to perform advanced clinical assessments.
“Working in Camp Qargha makes us feel we are making a difference with NATO's Resolute Support mission.”
Capt Reardon said the staff at the Canberra Hospital were fantastic with their support for her continuous full-time service with the Army School of Health during the past four years and a six-month deployment Afghanistan.
“It invigorates and excites me to help train and prepare the ADF’s future nursing officers for these types of deployments,” she said.
“The training at the Army School of Health with the ADF Extended Practice Nursing course will prepare them well for this role with the skills in primary health care and the ability to work in trauma and resuscitation bays.”