February 20th 2018

Derbyshire NHS Trust appoint Reserves Champion

Amanda Wildgust and Christine Ongoma

Amanda Wildgust and Christine Ongoma

A Trainee Advanced Clinical Practitioner who works for a NHS Trust in Derbyshire has been appointed Reserves Champion in her place of work thanks to her part-time military career.

Christine Ongoma, who works at Whitemoor Medical Centre in Belper, is employed by Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust (DCHS) and spends her spare time serving as a reservist with the Army Reserve’s 212 Field Hospital in Beeston.

Explaining why it was an honour to except her new title, Christine explained: “I am really passionate about being Reserves Champion. It is a new role created by HR to allow us to work together to raise awareness about being a reservist and encourage other people who are currently or have previously served in the military to consider a career with the Trust.

“So far, I have nominated the Trust to receive a Bronze Employer Recognition Scheme Award which we were granted last year and helped to organise the Armed Forces Covenant signing in November. I have also been working with managerial colleagues to influence the HR policy which was a huge task as our proposals had financial implications, but I’m pleased to say the Trust now offers three weeks paid leave for reservists to complete their military training commitments, on top of their regular annual leave provided as standard.

“I presented at an Executive Board Meeting explaining more about my personal military experiences and drew on a couple of other colleagues’ stories about why they also serve as reservists. It is our hope that we will start to increase the number of reservists and Service Leavers employed by the Trust over future months.”

Christine Ongoma in uniform

Christine Ongoma in uniform

Speaking about the cross-overs between her medical role in the NHS and her military career, Christine continued: “Being Reserves Champion is already starting to have an impact on the advice I provide within my job at the Medical Centre. The GPs I work with often refer patients to me who have connections with the Armed Forces as they understand that I may be able to offer assistance to individuals who have specific issues – such as who they may be able to contact for support and guidance as needed.”

Joining the Army Reserve in 2009, Christine explained that she hasn’t looked back since: “I grew up in Kenya and never thought about a career in the military until I was much older. A career in the Army started to become an interesting idea to me when I worked with the Kenyan Red Cross in a Humanitarian Aid Camp for two years after I qualified as a nurse.  There were a lot of military personnel supporting our work and I had a chance to learn a bit about them and what they did.

“So when I came over to the UK to live in 2003 and a few years later saw an Army recruiting stand I knew I needed to find out more about how I could potentially wear the green uniform myself!

“After joining, I realised there were so many more opportunities available to me in the Army Reserve than I could ever have imagined. There really is the chance to learn new skills, have new experiences and make a difference to people’s lives.

“I had to train hard to pass my recruit training and experienced a few difficulties with the fitness tests, but I overcame those challenges and would now recommend a career in the Reserve Forces to anyone.”

Amanda Wildgust, Head of People Services at DCHS, said: “I first came in to contact with Christine after she started to follow me on Twitter. I soon learnt that she was employed by the Trust and was also an Army Reservist so I knew she would be an ideal person to help to promote the Reserve Forces to the rest of the organisation.

“Christine has been able to work with the HR team to enhance what we can offer reservists in terms of paid leave to complete military training. The Trust is currently working towards achieving a Silver Employer Recognition Scheme Award to publicly demonstrate how we value the skills reservists like Christine bring into the workplace.

“Reservists bring a variety of skills in to the NHS that are really beneficial to both us as an organisation and their personnel development. We currently have three reservists working at the Trust as well as a number of Service Leavers, each of whom bring with them a range of experiences such as the ability to lead a team and solve problems.”

"After joining, I realised there were so many more opportunities available to me in the Army Reserve than I could ever have imagined."