The very first University of Sunderland student nurse to complete her Army Reservist Training marks an important milestone in a partnership with the Armed Forces.
Hayley Fairweather, 26, took her Oath of Allegiance during a special ceremony on campus before officers of the 251 Medical Squadron, the University’s Vice Chancellor, Sir David Bell, and academics from the nursing team.
The University has a longstanding relationship of mutual support with the Army’s Medical Services and in particular 251 Medical Squadron at Seaburn. The University has supported military training events with staff and equipment, and the Medical Squadron has attended University Open Days to promote the Reserve Service.
Students interested in the Reserves take part in team-building activities, leadership exercises and trauma days, creating an awareness of medical careers in the Armed Forces. Working with the Defence Medical Services offers skills aimed at those wishing to join the military after qualification.
“It’s such a proud day for me to take the Oath of Allegiance,” beamed Hayley, a third-year nursing student who comes from a family of military personnel, her father was in the Royal Marines and brother is in the Royal Navy.
“I always had a big interest in the Armed Forces, but never previously had the guts to go and do it. But once I found out about the link-up between the University and 251 Medical Squadron, I signed up for the team-building days and it went from there.
“I would recommend that any student to sign up, it’s great for building confidence, teamwork and leadership skills.”
Recruitment Officer WO1 Dennis Mustard said: “Hayley took her Oath of Allegiance after completing her training package, passing her medical and fitness tests, and is now a fully-fledged Army Reserve Soldier.
“She is the first student nurse that we have attested into 251Medical Squadron, thanks to a partnership we embarked upon over two years ago, with the University, which is fantastic.”
The University signed their Armed Forces Covenant with a pledge to establish employment opportunities for Service leavers and recognise the unique skills many possess, directing them to suitable educational programmes and courses.
The University was also recognised with an Employer Recognition Scheme Silver awards for the major contribution an organisation is making with initiatives such as employing veterans, supporting individuals transitioning out of the Armed Forces into a new career and providing flexibility for Reservists.
WO1 Mustard added: “As we’re a Medical Squadron, we focus on nurses and paramedics through the Reserves.
“The students who sign up learn command, leadership and communication skills, they gain confidence which is great preparation for them to work in the NHS as part of a big team under a lot of pressure.
“It’s also an extra hobby for them, they get paid and the minimum commitment is to serve 27 days per year.”
Former nursery nurse Hayley was attested by Major McDermott-Moses and was followed by another nursing student, Gavin Middlemass, who has also taken his Oath of Allegiance and is now able to serve his country as an Army Reservist.
Simone Bedford, Team Leader for Undergraduate Nursing, said: “Attestation of our first student nurses is an incredibly proud day for us all.
“As a veteran myself I recognise the importance of team building and leadership skills especially within nursing, so for us to have the opportunity to work with the Army Reserves and give us their expertise in that field is fantastic. It complements the partnership work we’re doing with the Armed Forces and reinforces the Employer Recognition Scheme Silver award we achieved.
“The team building days helps students integrate with others and brings other cohorts together.”
Gavin Middlemass, 32, from Sunderland, was inspired to become a nurse after caring for his elderly relatives, and seeing first-hand the work the community nurses do.
Now in the second year of his nursing course, the former contact centre worker joined the Army Reserves after speaking to WO1 Mustard at an Open Day. “I looked at the opportunities available and it’s been fantastic. You’re pushed to your limits which gives you the confidence to go into any kind of pressure situation.”
Sue Brent, Head of School of Nursing and Health Sciences, added: “This is fantastic news for our School of Nursing and demonstrates the dedication of our staff in support of our students and the Armed Forces. They are encouraging our students to go a step beyond their nursing studies and to take every opportunity that they can. We are incredibly proud of what they’re achieving.”