Gillian keeps up her day job while joining the Army Reserves

Gillian McDougal is a staff nurse from Carlisle who likes a challenge but deciding to join the Army reservists in her 40s has to be one of the most unusual.

Having qualified as a nurse in 1996 she has worked in many areas of nursing including hospice, trauma, community, and school nursing. She now works in the Hospital at Home team and a chance meeting meant she realise that she could pursue what was ultimately a childhood dream.

She said: “I always wanted to join the army when I was younger but my dad wouldn't allow it. While working as a community nurse I met a patient’s daughter who was home on leave from regular army. We talked about her role in the army and it started me thinking about the army again. She advised me to apply and as my family were growing up the timing seemed perfect.  I told nobody in case I failed my selection up at Glencorse! Each New Year I set myself a challenge and have ran half marathons, and progressed to full marathons and joining the reserves was my latest challenge.”

Needless to say Gillian need not have worried as she passed the training but admits it wasn’t easy:

“Training involves early starts, lots of physical activities, running, walking, academic, team tasks, medical tests, complete with army rations and then an interview held over three days in Scotland. Two out of the eight from Carlisle who started the training passed. There was also my nursing revalidation training to complete.”

I have now been to Grantham to see what officer training entails. My commitment is 27 days each year which I fit around my work in the NHS and my family. I would definitely recommend the reservists to others; it’s fun!!”

Gillian has many interests outside work and is involved in her local running club, working in her allotment and photography.

Wendy Marshall Team Leader, Hospital at Home team said “Gillian is a very motivated person and always involved in helping others. She has developed a wealth of nursing skills which will be invaluable in her role with the reserves. Gillian is a great ambassador for her team in demonstrating Trust values in her everyday life. We wish her well in this additional role.”

Mike Taylor Chair at the Partnership Trust and Armed Forces Covenant representative said “It is great to see that Gillian has fulfilled her ambition and is using her wealth of skills and experience across the NHS and Armed Forces”

You can join the army reserves from aged 17 years 9 months until you are 50, people come from all kinds of backgrounds. There are higher age limits for some specialist roles but you need to pass medical and fitness tests.