As part of Remembrance Day 2020 , one former British Army Telecomms Engineer explains how working at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) throughout the Covid-19 pandemic compares to the front line.
Mark Ainscough, a 41-year-old, father-of-three from Orrell, Wigan spent 13 years in the British Army in the Royal Corps of Signals as a Telecommunications Operator followed by three and a half years in the New Zealand Army in the Royal (NZ) Engineers as a Firefighter, serving in Germany, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, UK and Iraq.
Mark Firefighting in New Zealand
But it was a chance visit to a careers open day that brought Mark to WWL and a new career with the NHS.
“After returning from New Zealand in 2012 I wanted to continue my career as a firefighter but, sadly, the fire service was not recruiting at the time,” says Mark.
“I was persuaded by a careers advisor to attend an open day for auxiliary nurse recruitment for WWL and since I enjoyed the ‘first aid’ side of firefighting, I decided to apply and add auxiliary nurse to my CV.”
After a few months Mark knew that nursing was something he wanted to pursue as career and started looking at how he could complete an access course to become a Staff Nurse. He started his training in 2015 and three years later, then full qualified, was putting his skills to good use in the Trust’s ICU department.
And it was during his time working in ICU throughout the Covid-19 pandemic that Mark’s forces’ training really helped him cope with the pressures being faced by him and his colleagues.
“It has been difficult working through the pandemic, but I have found that the team spirit and camaraderie of everyone has been outstanding,” he says.
Mark in full PPE at WWL
“I think the army gives you a ‘just get on with it’ kind of attitude that I hope has stood me in good stead, but honestly, working through the pandemic has been at least as challenging as some of the toughest situations I found myself in during my time in the army.”
Mark, who is also completing his Critical Care Course and is involved with the Trust’s Veteran Awareness programme, has a 20-year-old daughter at university, a 16-year-old daughter at college, a seven month old son and a fiancé who is also a Staff Nurse.
He says; “I missed the hardest part of the ‘first wave’ as I was on paternity leave but I soon realised when I came back to work how hard my colleagues had had it.
“My fiancé has found it hard being at home, quite isolated, knowing what we have been dealing with at work and spending long days at home with a baby.
“But I’m so proud of my family and the other ICU staff families for their support whilst we support our patients, families and colleagues through such a difficult crisis.”