Hannah’s Army Discipline Leaves Its Mark In Reception
On first impressions, the gruelling experiences of soldier training sessions at army camp appear to have nothing whatsoever in common with helping the London Vision Clinic run smoothly. However, after spending a few minutes with clinic coordinator, Hannah Smyth, it is easy to see that although these environments might appear to be poles apart, they can and do overlap creating a winning work combination.
Hannah’s Military Experience
Hannah, who joined the London Vision Clinic team six months ago, was brought up in a military family on the Cambridgeshire / Lincolnshire border and joined the Combined Cadet Force (a Ministry of Defence sponsored youth organisation), at the age of fourteen.
Four years later, and while studying at Leeds Metropolitan University, she became a member of the Territorial Army’s Officer Training Corps spending alternate weekends and every Wednesday evening testing her strength to the limit while learning the physical and mental disciplines necessary for life in the army. This included marching miles with a heavy back pack in a scorching German summer heat-wave; as well as sleeping under the stars in the bitter cold of a freezing northern UK winter.
“It is more difficult to do loaded marches in icy conditions than in snow. On one occasion I slipped and the ice cut through my trousers and my thermals leaving a nasty gash on my knee… but, I kept going.
“I guess it really helped to build me as a person”, said Hannah, who was with the Officer Training Corps for three years from the age of eighteen. “The Territorial Army (TA) became like my home away from home – I had some great role models there and learned so much about being part of a team, life experience, and truly what hard work really is.”
Hannah took all the TA had to throw at her in her stride neither expecting nor getting any concessions for being female; in fact, much of the physical training was tougher for her than her male comrades.
“Obviously I had issues of weight (rather than stamina) to overcome – we were all expected to carry a 25 kilo back-pack which, for me represented almost half my body weight.”
…and how did she cope with the other hardships – like the lack of bathroom facilities?
“You just have to accept it because it’s not going to be the worst thing that happens! Not being able to brush your hair for two days, getting muddy and not having access to running water become like nothing – just little inconveniences- you don’t even think about.”
So what was the hardest part of the army experience for Hannah?
“After a freezing cold session the worst bit for me was losing the use of my hands and knowing that, even with completely numb fingers which don’t work properly, my rifle still had to be dismantled and cleaned. This was the toughest two hours because I knew that if my hands were normal they would easily cope with all the tiny parts.”
After her army experiences and achieving a degree in bio-medical science, Hannah toyed with the idea of following a career in education, first teaching biology and chemistry in Thailand and then taking a managerial role at a summer school.
An on-going love of science means that today Hannah feels at home in the Laser Eye Surgery environment. She also describes herself as “painfully disciplined – a dedicated organiser who thrives on efficiency and pre-planning.
“We (clinic coordinators) are the first port of call for patients and we are constantly kept on our toes so the multi-tasking skills I learned in the army come into play. I am painfully disciplined and really particular – I have little niggles and I like things done in a certain way!
“Pre-planning is an important part of time management. In the army there is a certain way to pack your kit bag – so that you know exactly where everything is: for instance, you need to know which pocket your spoon is in so you can eat without wasting time looking for it.
“Here I also enjoy the element of organisation – I like to know that I can reach behind and put my hand on a bottle of Blink drops – it’s much easier like this. If you can’t find something – you are wasting time.”
Hannah’s time management skills mean that she can also feed her fitness passion by running 5k around Regent’s Park in her weekday lunch breaks.
“For me, an hour for lunch is a luxury- I cannot sit still for that long. Running for half an hour pumps me up and refreshes me for the afternoon.
“My job at the London Vision Clinic suits me perfectly – I count myself very lucky.”
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