Wellness - individual

Q & A with Candice Norris – Army Medical Officer and ACEM trainee

1. What was your evolution into the defence service alongside your emergency medicine training? (which came first ? were they related in any way?) 

I have always dreamed of serving and contributing to my country and medicine on a larger scale so enlisting into the Defence Force seemed like a natural transition for me. I love being able to help people in their time of need which is why emergency medicine has always excited me. My sister served as a RAAF Aviation doctor so growing up I heard such exciting deployment stories of her contributions in the Middle East and all over the world and after that I knew I wanted to follow in her footsteps.  

Once I had commissioned as a PGY 6 direct entry doctor I was so fortunate enough to meet some incredibly inspiring mentors whilst on my medical officer military courses who floated the idea of starting my FACEM training whilst being supported by defence. 

The Battalion and Company I am posted to has a primary ‘close and integral health’ focus similar to prehospital civilian health services.  As a team of two medics, a nurse and a doctor we are responsible for stabilising causalities in the field so for me it made sense to choose a specialty training programme that would provide me with the skills that would allow me to do this confidently and competently.  

2. What lessons have each taught you that you have been able to apply to the other? 

Finding organisation in often perceived chaos, time management, succeeding in teams, being a leader and thinking under pressure to make critical decisions are all skills that I have been able to bring from my experience in emergency to my role as a military doctor. I think hard lessons I had to learn as a junior doctor matured me and helped make the transition to life in the military a lot easier. Military life of structure and order was initially difficult for me coming from a shift work lifestyle but has been invaluable as I believe it has made me a more time efficient, organised trainee. 

Furthermore, the training I received as a military officer has not only given me the insight into my style of leadership but also the tools I have needed to push me outside my comfort zone in order to become a better person, team member and leader. You are taught through courses and on field exercises how to thrive in adversity, unfamiliar situations and how to trust yourself, your training and your team to help navigate you through difficult challenges. Undoubtedly this has taught me the value of leaning on your team for support and trusting in yourself to be the leader your team needs depending on the situation.

3. To date what has been your most impactful experience during service? 

Last year during the COVID-19 pandemic I felt very privileged being deployed on OP COVID-19 Assist to Victoria. Initially I was a frontline worker swabbing in regional areas which as simple as the task seemed made a huge difference helping already exhausted health centres. The last portion of the deployment I was then transferred to fill the role of one of the senior medical officers to the Aged Care Crisis command team advising and analysing on clinical risk and helping task emergency response military teams of medics and nurses. As a doctor this role for me was truly a privileged one where I felt proud that I was able to make a contribution that I think helped many vulnerable elderly during the pandemic. It made me proud to serve my country during its time of need. 

What would you like your colleagues across the health sector to most know and understand about being a clinician in the context of a defence force service?

I guess the hardest thing for most people in the health sector to understand is that we always have to be ready to step up if needed. Particularly with the ever changing world we are in at the moment it means we may need to deploy overseas or domestically on operation at very short notice.  Although I am an ACEM trainee, my primary role is still as an Army Medical Officer and that means my duties and tasks if required have to come first so this means committing to regular rosters and even exams can be quite difficult. We are often away on training exercises out field practising and refining both our military and technical skills which can be for extended periods of time. On top of that are mandatory military courses and deployments and commitments on base working in clinics and teaching that also diverts our attention and focus.  Both ACEM and my chain of command in the Army have been wonderfully supportive and very aware of this balance and I actually love juggling my two roles, it just requires good planning and organisation in advance and good communication. 

About Candice Norris

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