An Army husband and wife team who are both Government Key Workers are getting used to the new normal that COVID-19 has thrust upon many workers in vital roles across the UK.
Captain Dominic Noone, the Adjutant at Stafford based 16th Signal Regiment has swapped barracks office life for marshalling and disciplining the troops from the comfort of his Army married quarter at Beacon Barracks in Stafford.
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The 31 year old from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, has a key role in the Regiment which is now stood up as CSF 22 – one of the Army’s Coronavirus Support Forces that have been set up as part of the fully co-ordinated response in line with Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) requests, authorised through the Standing Joint Command headquarters in Aldershot.
But his wife of three and half years, Hannah, 29, a medical student in her final year, has also seen her life and career change overnight as she has been fast tracked from university to begin her medical career early at the George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Nuneaton, near Coventry, where she completed her first shifts employed by the hospital last week as part of plans to boost doctor numbers during the crisis. The university had planned this prior to the Government announcement.
Hannah is one of a growing number of trainee doctors who are being catapulted straight from their studies to the sharp end of medical practice – joining an army of medics battling to save the lives of those who need urgent treatment and intensive care in hospitals across the UK.
The couple, both designated as Key Workers as part of the Government’s COVID-19 response, have described how they are adapting to their new lives and ways of working and the impact that it’s had on them both personally and professionally.
Captain Noone said: “Hannah has just finished her medical studies at university, she just got her exam results on 18 March and was supposed to go to Nepal for six weeks as part of her medical training but instead at the moment she finds herself in this limbo between medical student and junior doctor.
“She completed her first week last week on a stroke ward where she worked alongside doctors and advanced nurse practitioners – but in the coming weeks and months she is likely to be treating COVID-19 patients as well as other patients admitted to the hospital.”
The Army officer, who is in charge of much of the administration and discipline at his regiment, said he has also been adapting to a new life working from home where his tasks include keeping the regimental home fires burning in terms of taking part in grading boards, discipline cases and routine reports and returns, as well as tracking and ensuring force levels in his unit.
But as many have been finding out, remote and virtual working can bring its own special set of unique challenges, not least that of communicating internally with colleagues using new and unfamiliar systems and Information Technology.
However, Capt Noone said that his task has been made much easier with the advent and growth of Defence Connect, which he said has been a vital tool during the last few weeks: “With so many people dispersed at the moment, Defence Connect has been really invaluable. It has helped us to communicate the key messages from the Commanding Officer, Regimental Second in Command (2IC) and Regimental Sergeant Major down to the soldiers, as well as ensuring key documents and links are available to all.
“We’ve even used a video posted on there for some of our COVID-19 pre-deployment training which has been hugely helpful- Defence Connect has really grown massively and has accelerated just at the time when we really need it the most.”
Hannah said she was adapting to her new life at the hospital and embracing the opportunity to kick-start her medical career early: “I’m proud to be useful at a time of national need. The situation is fast-changing and forcing us to be flexible and adaptable, and is not something any of us expected to encounter at all, let alone so early into our careers. “However, I want to rise to the challenge and be part of a new cohort of junior doctors moulded in the face of adversity.”
She has also taken part in the weekly #ClapForCarers events that have taken place in communities and towns across the world from her home behind the wire at Beacon Barracks in Stafford, adding: “It felt strange at first to be included in the group that people were clapping for and not at all deserved just yet!
“But I think it’s a great way for people to feel like they’re also doing their bit. We live behind the wire on a really small patch so I wasn’t expecting so much noise – we can definitely hear the community spirit! It’s a great morale booster for everyone taking part.”
16 Signal Regiment is under the command of the Joint Military Commander (JMC) of the West Midlands, Brigadier AJ Smith, Commander of 11th Signal and West Midlands Brigade, based at Donnington, Telford, who is leading the Army’s support and response to the civilian authorities in the battle against Coronavirus.
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