Nursing the Royal Navy to health

Our nurses know about hope and courage, joy and despair, pain and suffering, and life and death.

Each of them have their own story to tell.

Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service

Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service (QARNNS) is the nursing branch of the Royal Navy.

Our nurses work all over the globe; on shore or at the scene of a natural disaster providing essential primary and secondary care. Wherever they are in the world, they play a key part in keeping our people fit and healthy.

"Earning my place in the Royal Navy is an achievement that will stay with me for life."

Leading Naval Nurse Ben Parham

Leading Naval Nurse Ben Parham

Life in the Royal Navy is extraordinary, which is why I wanted to join.

There are opportunities to nurse at sea, in the air and on land, allowing me to make the most of my abilities and skills. Also, having the opportunity to work in some amazing places around the world really excites me. ​

My previous post before joining the Royal Navy was that of a Registered Nurse in Cardiothoracic Intensive Care at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth. I was employed to provide specialist nursing care focused on post-operative surgical patients with emphasis on cardiovascular surgery.

I applied for the Royal Navy in my third year of nurse training at Plymouth University and started training at HMS Raleigh on 9 December 2019. The discipline, teamwork and organisation skills I learnt throughout those ten weeks will stay with me throughout my career.

Earning my place in the Royal Navy and being awarded the Captain's Prize for the best overall trainee, at a passing out ceremony attended by my family and friends, is an achievement that will stay with me for life. I’ll always remember it as where my adventure started.

Following my training at HMS Raleigh I reported to Joint Hospital Group (South West) at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth as a Leading Naval Nurse. Upon joining the unit, I was drafted to a surgical ward which lasted fourteen days as the Covid-19 world pandemic unfolded.

With my previous experience in critical care I was transferred to Intensive Care and into the red zone looking after Covid-19 positive patients. This brought multiple challenges both clinically and emotionally that I had not experienced previously. 

However, I was really well supported by my military and civillian colleagues. I am learning new skills and meeting new people with the added benefit of knowing I’m part of a huge global effort.

Petty Officer Naval Nurse Alice Mullen

Before I joined the Royal Navy in 2014 I had been in the Army Reserve for 5 years whilst at University in Cardiff. Whilst attached to a Field Hospital which was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, I met several naval nurses during pre-deployment training and decided that joining the Royal Navy as a nurse was the path I wanted to take.

The idea of being deployed anywhere in the world, where people need medical help in both humanitarian operations and wartime really interested me. The ability to provide nursing care in austere and challenging environments appealed to me and after qualifying as a nurse, I arrived at HMS Raleigh to complete my basic training.

I've worked in Joint Hospital Groups in Portsmouth and Plymouth, and at HMS Drake Medical Centre. I completed my post-graduate degree in Intensive Care Nursing, enabling me to be part of small, high readiness teams to deploy anywhere around the world. I have taken part in exercises on board RFA Argus, RFA Cardigan Bay and with the Army as part of pre-deployment training for Operation Gritrock (the fight against the Ebola virus epidemic).

One of the biggest appeals of joining the Royal Navy was the opportunity to take part in Adventurous Training; I have sailed around the UK and the Caribbean, and skied in France and Bavaria, gaining qualifications.

I currently work in the ICU at Derriford Hospital caring for patients during the COVID 19 pandemic. Royal Navy nurses work alongside their colleagues from both the Army RAF and NHS, to provide patient care to patients with the virus. 

QARNNS personnel's experience of nursing in austere conditions and our leadership training has seen us step up to support our civilian colleagues in the new ways of working. We have been involved in supporting and mentoring the upskilling of nurses new or returning to the critical care environment. A more task orientated approach to clinical care may be required to keep patients safe, and naval nurses are well placed to lead in this environment.​

The ‘on tour’ mentality is influencing our NHS colleagues in positive ways and it’s clear that the only way to get through this in one piece, is to work together as one big team.

Lieutenant Hannah Klepacz

I joined Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service (QARNNS) in 2015. Before joining the Royal Navy I spent five years as a nurse in the NHS. I am a specialist emergency nurse and usually work in the emergency department.

Since joining the Royal Navy I have deployed on operations in support of migrant relief and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. I have used my emergency nursing skills to recover ill or injured persons back to the ship for medical treatment by the hospital team on board.

At the moment I am the Hospital Officer on board RFA Argus – an aviation training/casualty treatment ship – which is deployed in the Caribbean ready to provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief should a hurricane strike, as well as being ready to respond to calls for help in the COVID-19 pandemic if required.

My role is to ensure the Maritime Role 3 (MR3) deployed hospital on board RFA Argus is ready to respond to operational medical requirements. Whilst I maintain the 100-bedded hospital’s equipment and stores on board the ship, the large clinical team remain ready in the UK. Medical support provided by the Royal Navy’s Maritime Deployed Hospital group (MDHG) is recognised to be of world class standard.

Since joining RFA Argus, I have deployed on Operation Baltic Protector in 2019 and Exercise Joint Warrior,  where the MR3 clinical team embarked to exercise delivering healthcare within an amphibious task group.

 My team continue to maintain the MR3 capability at readiness should RFA Argus be required to deliver her primary role.

Deploying away from your family is inevitable as a Naval Nursing Officer, but I have relished the opportunity to visit new regions of world and provide healthcare at sea. My family recognise my passion and are extremely supportive.

Want to join us?

Life in the Medical branch is your opportunity to care for the people who protect our nation’s interests, being deployed to where you’re needed most, and taking on real responsibility from day one.