Squadron Leader Erin Anderson at her graduation
Squadron Leader Erin at her graduation

From the NHS to the RAF: joining later in life

Squadron Leader Erin commissioned in December 2020, aged 38, hoping to hit the ground running. She got exactly that.

Ministry of Defence
Mar 29 · 3 min read

Erin coordinates COVID-19 vaccination teams near Basingstoke. She leads a 6 person Vaccination Quick Reaction Force team in the South East and is responsible for coordinating their day-to-day tasking. She makes sure her team are equipped with gold standard training, and has worked closely with NHS leads at vaccine centres. Her GP have put her years as a GP have put her in a great position to work with the NHS. She says:

“It’s a really good experience to be part of this vital response, seeing patients from different backgrounds. This is such a huge ray of hope in their lives at the moment. You come home feeling elated to be giving such a ray of hope.”

One of her favourite things about the opportunity is being able to work with people from a range of backgrounds. Volunteers in the centre come from a variety of places— commercial pilots, firefighters, theatre actors — who are trained for their important roles. One volunteer was a zoo keeper, who came to help with admin but worked her way up with hands-on training, following the National Protocol, to have a more involved role with the vaccination effort.

Squadron Leader Erin at the vaccine centre

Erin says:

“Our primary focus is vaccinating, but in the midst of that we’ve managed to learn a lot about other people’s career paths, goals for the future, etc. It’s broadened everyone’s horizons and been a real positive. We rely on social media so much to communicate, being able to speak to people is really valuable.”

Erin was a GP with the NHS for many years, including three years working as a civilian medical practitioner for the Ministry of Defence. It was this experience, as well as being the wife and daughter of RAF personnel, that opened her eyes to a career in the Armed Forces. She says:

“I’ve come out of Officer training and immediately been given a leadership role which has allowed me to put my training into practice. It’s a much broader experience than just providing healthcare and being a GP. You are encouraged to develop additional qualities and expand your best characteristics according to what inspires you at work: being a leader, managing, working with a team.

I often felt frustrated in my previous role, feeling like I couldn’t use my skills to get stuck in. To be on an important national operation within a matter of weeks has been exactly why I wanted to join.”

Read more about the COVID vaccine response here:

Find out where the UK Armed Forces are deployed around the globe:

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