Reserve force doctor clocks up air miles and experience
As a young medical student, Louise Speedy joined the New Zealand Army Reserve Force just for something to do. Twenty-six years later that decision means she has been able to travel everywhere from Afghanistan to Hawaii, and closer to home.
02 November, 2022
Major Speedy, 45, from Hawke’s Bay, was one of the team which took part in a specialist team-building activity at Whanganui Hospital recently, drawing together Regular Force and Reserve Force clinical specialists from New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Health.
Personnel, who usually operate in different hospital settings, worked as a team to complete some elective surgical procedures on adult patients at Te Whatu Ora, Whanganui.
It was the most recent activity for the anaesthetist and intensive care specialist. Major Speedy has been deployed on many different operations with the NZDF, including the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) in Hawaii earlier this year.
While she might have joined the Reserve Force by chance, with some second-year medical students convincing her to sign up, she’s stayed for the experience.
Every summer through medical school she was involved in Reserve Force activities. When she became a junior doctor she got a bit more serious and she deployed to Afghanistan.
It was a juggle to fit it all in, and Major Speedy said it was a matter of trying to maintain the good will of colleagues who juggled shifts while she was away, as well as having a supportive husband and children who thought it was cool what she did.
Going on RIMPAC this year was an “awesome opportunity”, she said.
“Getting to be on board a Landing Helicopter Dock ship was a real education on the health threats at sea, and the health threats on a really big ship, and what is potentially required from the surgical capability on board.”
While fitting everything in might be a juggle, Major Speedy said it was the people that kept her doing what she was doing.
“I get to work with people in both Regular and Reserve Force units. There are some awesome people in Defence and I love the different dynamic with Defence Force patients too.”
Anyone who knows anyone thinking of joining the Defence Force medical team in the Reserve Force should “twist their arm”, she said.
“If they have enthusiasm and some get-up-and-go and practise in medicine, this is for you.”
The skills learned through working with the NZDF were transferable, she said.
“I was part of a three-person team in my hospital tasked with setting up our Covid-19 Intensive Care Unit in three weeks.
“The skill to do those kinds of things is part of my Defence Force training, such as the critical thinking and the way you analyse problems.”