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Medic on call

Teamwork is a huge part of being in the Navy, but Able Medic Celynia Thompson wanted to grow herself as an individual as well.

01 December, 2022

For her first sea posting, Able Media (AMED) Thompson was a medic on board HMNZS Wellington for Operation Mahi Tahi, during the ship’s fisheries patrols in the Western Pacific in August and September.

Originally from Hastings, AMED Thompson, 22, grew up in Australia. After applying to join the Navy, she moved to New Zealand and two weeks later started with her intake in early 2019. “I was moving away from all my family, so joining the Navy was a decision I made to help push myself into growing.

“I wanted a long-term career, and a career that I could look at and know that every day wouldn’t necessarily be the same. I didn’t want a repetitive 9-5 job. I wanted to work hard and reap the benefits of stepping ashore into different countries.”

On board Wellington, she works under a Leading Medic to help the Ship’s Company when they need it. “An average day would be getting up at 0510 for personal Physical Training, then starting work most of the time at 0730 or 0800 with ‘sick parade’, and that’ll go until 0900.” Sick Parade is when crew members present themselves with ailments or issues.

A lot of the day is administration, particularly around care and custody of medical stores, and what will get transferred to other ships or back into base storage when the operation is over. There’s another sick parade at 1300. “I find stores for stocktakes, see patients, and attend Damage Control exercises.


A woman wearing a dark blue Navy uniform with gold accents checks blood pressure of patient in a medical room. Abel Medic Celynia Thompson wearing a dark blue Navy uniform with gold accents stands facing the camera with her arms crossed. A woman wearing a dark blue Navy uniform with gold accents checks blood pressure of patient in a medical room.

Able Medic Celynia Thompson on board HMNZS Wellington during Operation Mahi Tahi.

“We work under COVID-19 protocols where necessary, which means doing supervised Rapid Antigen Tests in the hangar or telling people to keep their masks on.”

The hardest aspect of the job is probably the lament of any medical person. “Getting people to follow medical advice!”

It takes two years and eight months of medical training at Burnham Army Camp to become a qualified medic – a long time in a non-Navy environment. “They prepare you well academically and in the field, but it did not prepare me personally for posting on a ship,” she says.

Having said that, the highlight has been the ship’s company. “I can say with 100 per cent honesty that I don’t think I could have had a better first crew to post with. Another highlight has been learning the ropes through Leading Medic Georgia Boden, who shows no judgement to any question I throw at her and has been quick to teach me as much as she can about being a medic on board.”

LMED Thompson joined the cultural practice group on board. “It’s open to any and all cultures, where we bring in different songs to learn and sing.”

She says she enjoys traveling to new places, whether it’s a new restaurant or a new town. “That fits perfectly with the Navy when on deployment. I have a passion for listening and learning about other cultures and in this job, you get to step ashore into different countries.”

Her advice to others would be to expect the unexpected. “This a career where you will have to adapt to unforeseen circumstances that may not fit personal preference, but people make the best of the situation together and there are amazing experiences when you keep an open mind to what you get at hand.”