9 March 2009: Australian Catholic University (ACU) nursing graduate, Georgie Hodgson, has come a long way from working in a suburban Melbourne nursing home.
The 30-year-old is now one of a handful of civilian personnel who deploy with the military to provide emergency nursing care to soldiers, civilians and insurgents at British field hospitals in the Middle East.
In recognition of her service to the British Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Georgie was recently awarded two Operational Medals at a ceremony in Gloucester, England.
After completing her nursing degree at ACU’s Melbourne campus, Georgie worked in the Accident and Emergency Departments at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, and Mona Vale Hospital in Sydney. Keen for a challenge, she later moved to remote Halls Creek in Western Australia – working at a small eight-bed hospital which served a large Aboriginal community.
“This was challenging work given the amount of violence and abuse that was seen on a regular basis but it really helped to develop my confidence,” Georgie said. “A lot of important decisions had to be made on the spot.”
After almost a year, she once again packed her bags, and left the heat of Halls Creek for the London damp.
“At first I found London cold, unfriendly and the state of the hospitals dismal,” Georgie said. “I remember coming back from my first shift and I cried my eyes out because I felt there was no way that I could give my patients the attention they needed – but like anything, you get used to it and do your best to cope.
“After about a year I was tired of working in London and applied for a position with Frontier Medical Services, who were recruiting medical staff to work for the British Ministry of Defence in Iraq.
Georgie was accepted and after two months of pre-deployment training was posted to the British Military Hospital in Shaibah, Southern Iraq. She has since been deployed three times to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.
“I find the work both challenging and rewarding,” she said. “There were times when the military hospitals were being attacked so frequently that I resolved never to return, but something keeps drawing me back.
“The work is exciting and the support you receive from the military personnel is fantastic - they become your family and friends while you’re there, and you really draw strength from each other when times are tough.
“I’ve made some of the best friends of my life out there.”
Georgie will be returning to Iraq later this year to assist with the evacuation of British Forces.