FEATURE: Stevenage hospital consultant on being an RAF reserve

Dr Ruth Van Hoogstraten, consultant anaesthetist at the Lister Hospital and RAF reservist.

Dr Ruth Van Hoogstraten, consultant anaesthetist at the Lister Hospital and RAF reservist. - Credit: Archant

When moving into a new house most people are looking for somewhere to put down roots. Not Ruth Van Hoogstraten – she’s more concerned with finding somewhere that she’s happy to leave at short notice.

That’s because Ruth, who has been a consultant anaesthetist at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital for the last 10 years, is also a Royal Air Force reservist, and never quite knows when she could find herself on a plane to the other side of the world.

Ruth is assigned to the 4626 Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron where her skills could be used to save lives in a war zone.

The 47-year-old said: “I would be away for four to six months, and I think it is highly likely that they will use my skills in the future.”

She joined up as a reservist in November 2013 after hearing about the opportunities to put her skills to good use at a conference.


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At weekends she swaps her scrubs for training fatigues and heads for RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire to hone her skills.

Reservists are volunteers called on to supplement operational troops whenever they are needed.

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They work normal jobs but spend their free time training with the forces.

And if they are called up to serve, there’s a guarantee that their jobs will be there for them when they get back.

Reservists make up 14 per cent of the nation’s forces and individuals can be attached to the Army, RAF, Navy or the Royal Marines.

Although Ruth’s medical training is obviously valuable to the armed forces, she has also learned leadership skills which she can take back to her civilian role in Stevenage.

She said: “I chose the Air Force because, to be honest, I am not a very good sailor.

“It is something that takes up a bit of time out of my year, but I have no regrets or concerns.

“I have been taught how to handle weapons, live in the field and the medical aspect is very different to what I would get to do in an A&E at a hospital.”

She said management at the Lister had been “very supportive” about her training commitments, and she’s not the only reservist working at the Coreys Mill Lane site.

Recruits have to complete 15 days continuous training each year, but Ruth doesn’t have to use her holiday allowance to tick that box. Reservists also have to set aside six weekends for training, but travel costs are refunded.

“I do extra because I enjoy it so much, I just think it is really interesting,” she said.

The Ministry of Defence maintains a special website to help foster good relations between staff who want to do their bit and the firms they work for, and may have to leave behind.

You can find out more about SaBRE (Supporting Britain’s Reservists and Employers) online at www.sabre.mod.uk.

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