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Byline: Andy Hutson

FOR 60 or 70 hours a week Charles Johnson works flat out with colleagues as a doctor at Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital. But there is no time for a breather after work, because his other life is as a captain in the Territorial Army. ANDY HUTSON reports.

DR Charles Johnson has taken time out from his hectic schedule to chat about his life on and away from the wards at Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital.

It takes only a matter of seconds to realise how busy life can get in the accident and emergency department.

But rather than taking it easy in his spare time, the 26-year-old senior house officer (SHO) devotes about 80 per cent of it to the TA at 202 Field Hospital in Birmingham.

As a TA captain general duties medical officer, he gives about 100 days a year to the organisation. He recently returned from an exercise setting up a large field hospital where "patients" were flown in by Chinook helicopter and treated by the medics of 202 Field Hospital.

So, how does he manage to fit everything in?

Dr Johnson says: "You need personal flexibility and there is the discipline that you will not find in normal life - it's not for everybody.

"I joined as a fourth-year medical student and learned how to fit the TA around exams and training, but you need to be organised personally and it gives you an added incentive to do so.

"The problem, if there is one, is professional exams, so I carry books around wherever I am."

He joined the TA while studying at the University of Birmingham medical school after deciding he wanted a new challenge.

He graduated in 2000 and has been at Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital for a year, as part of the orthopaedic team offering trauma cover round the clock.

When he got the job in Coventry he moved back in with his parents at Stoneleigh Park, which helped him to combine his medical career with his TA activities by removing the stress of having to run a house as well.

Of his TA work he says: "I was looking for an alternative challenge and it's a nice crowd and it's enjoyable. I'm racking up about 100 days this year, which for an SHO is almost unheard of.

"I use about 80 per cent of my annual leave for the TA and I do enjoy it. I grew up the son of a regular officer so I knew the army quite well."

He is also a keen sportsman and competes in pentathlons.

In the future he wants to be a military surgeon, but in the meantime he believes that his TA and NHS careers work well in tandem.

"As a doctor you have an opportunity to get in there and help someone and give them back their life," he says. "Your professional life helps other people's personal life, but the TA keeps me rounded.

"The training that the TA provides soldiers with has been exceptionally useful in providing me with the skills needed to cope with any unforeseen circumstances and stressful situations that often occur in my job.

"The TA has also taught me how to work with my colleagues and appreciate them in a professional capacity.

"It's a very symbiotic relationship - the TA realises I'm primarily an NHS doctor and supports me in that role.

"I intend to stay in the TA to get up to command level - the senior level is colonel. If I wanted to go higher I would go full time, but for the time being I have the best of both worlds," Dr Johnson.


DOUBLE ROLE: Charles Johnson on junior doctor duties at Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital (above) and (below) competing as a TA officer in the 2001 pentathlon in Toledo. Main picture: RICHARD NELMES; FRONT-LINE DUTIES: TA members at work in the field hospital unit
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Dec 26, 2002
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