#YesSheCan’s latest feature is something a bit different than the previous features. In this blog, we interview Caroline Fryer. Since a young age, Caroline had a calling to have a career in the military. She was also fortunate enough to have a passion for medicine, thus becoming a General Duties Medical Officer in the British Army.
Caroline’s story is a great example of a woman who, through hard work and determination, has made a successful career in a world often associated with men.
I am a General Duties Medical Officer in the British Army, currently based with 3 Medical Regiment but attached to the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR). This job provides a mix of jobs roles between the Medical Regiment and the work with HCMR.
Through the Medical Regiment, I get deployed as medical cover for Operations, Exercises and courses for the Army. Over the last six months, my job has taken me to Brunei, Hereford, Salisbury Plain and Poland. Each of these roles has had different aspects to them. The main roles are providing Primary Healthcare to the soldiers and emergency care where needed before transfer onto further care, as well as training other medical personnel.
My work at HCMR is working alongside a GP and has more of a Primary Healthcare theme, along with supporting parades with medical cover.
What barriers have faced you in your career?
When applying for medical school I didn’t manage to fulfil my offer due to missing a grade in Chemistry. This meant I lost my place at Barts and the London and had to reapply the year after. I had dreamt of going to Medical School in London and this was no longer an option.
My Headmaster at the time reminded me that studying Medicine anywhere was the main goal and that reapplying out of London would still be a great experience and get me on the career pathway I had planned.
Another application left me with an offer at the University of Leeds. Having this set back made me even more determined to go down the career pathway I had wanted to do for many years before.
How do you maintain a work-life balance?
In the Army, this is sometimes hard, especially when you often live at work. When deployed there is a feeling of being ‘on-call’ 24/7 as there are often no other medical resources nearby.
When at home my main ways are through socialising with friends, exercising, reading or just having a day of doing nothing! If I am deployed then it will be trying to get out on trips either run by work or on my days off, I enjoy exploring different countries and so try and make the most of any opportunities presented. In Brunei, this was taking a weekend trip to Kuching and in Poland, it was a battlefield tour to Latvia and Lithuania.
Planning as much as possible also helps maintain a good work-life balance, I will always plan my leave well in advance as I know some won’t be able to be approved due to commitments and so my boyfriend can try and match his leave. Both of our jobs take us away a lot and require forward planning of leave, so it makes it even more important to ensure we get some time together.
How did you get to the position you are in now?
At 16 I got an Army Sixth Form Scholarship equivalent to an Army Main Board pass, which is required for entry to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
After this, I went to university and joined the Officer Training Corps, during this time I applied and successfully gained a Medical Cadetship which helped with tuition fees and guaranteed a job as a doctor in the Royal Army Medical Corps after graduation. This scheme has now changed to a Medical Bursary but requires signing up for the same return of service of six years after graduation.
My Foundation years were done at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine in Birmingham where I worked at the Queen Elizabeth hospital for two years before heading off to Sandhurst for the Professional Qualified Officers course. This is currently a nine-week course where military skills and tactics are taught in order to prepare you for being an Army Officer. The final stage of training was a five-month course about medical planning and military medicine. The end of this course then led into my first posting which I am currently in now.
What was your first job?
During my GCSEs, I worked at a local stable on a Sunday morning. The money I earnt was put towards my riding lessons. This first job really showed me what hard work was. Every Sunday I was expected to be there at 0730 in the morning and worked until 1230. This included quite labour intensive jobs and often it was very cold and wet! I feel that this experience really cemented an ethos of working hard in me and showed me what working life was like from a young age.
What are your key motivators?
Medicine is a very long-winded career to get to your desired goal, whether that be in primary or secondary care. Sometimes this can dent motivation as the goal seems so far away, I find the easiest way to deal with this is to take each step and see where it lands you and move on from there. To become a hospital consultant requires foundation, core and then speciality training. Each of these require a separate application for most specialities. With these applications, there are many outcomes and so seeing how each ‘round’ goes and then moving on from that is the best way forward.
Reminding myself along the way of the reasons I went into medicine keep motivation up. Wanting to help and care for people alongside my passion and interest of medicine keep it an interesting, exciting and fulfilling career.
What do you hope to achieve in the future?
Hopefully in the future, I will manage to become a consultant anaesthetist in the Army. Currently, I would like to look at sub-specialising in either intensive care medicine, pre-hospital emergency medicine, or maybe both!
If you've enjoyed reading about Caroline's story then you'll love our blog about Firefighter Carina Peel.