Naval Nurse recognised for 30 years’ service and many lives saved

One of the RNR’s longest serving members, Naval Nurse Elaine Grist, has been recognised for her 30 years of naval service (and many operational deployments) with a fourth clasp to her VRSM.

For many reservists, being awarded the Volunteer Reserve Service Medal (VRSM) for ten years’ service is an achievement, but with thirty years of service Elaine Grist been awarded the VRSM medal and then earned four clasps, one for each of her subsequent five years’ of service. 

To mark the achievement, the clasp was presented by Commodore Inga Jane Kennedy, CBE, VR, QHNS, ACOS Medical and a former Royal Naval Reserve Nurse herself.

Combining her civilian nursing with being a nurse in the naval reserve has been challenging but hugely rewarding for Elaine.

I have had a wonderful career and I feel privilege to share my experience and let future generations know about what they too can achieve as a member of the RNR Medical Branch.

Elaine Grist

She was one of the first Royal Naval Reserve nurses to go to sea, with a hugely memorable deployment on RFA Diligence to Singapore and then also serving on the Sir Tristram and Sir Geraint.

Elaine said: “I have had a wonderful career and I feel privilege to share my experience and let future generations know about what they too can achieve as a member of the RNR Medical Branch.

“I have made some lifelong friends and would do it all again tomorrow.”

Originally a native of Manchester, Elaine started her career in nursing with the NHS and joined the Royal Naval Reserve at HMS Salford.

Over her career she has gradually moved southwards, serving with Royal Naval Reserve units HMS Eaglet (Liverpool), HMS Wildfire (Northwood) and eleven years ago completing the move south by joining HMS King Alfred in Portsmouth.  As well as moving job the move south also led Elaine to meet her husband, a fellow nurse and Royal Naval Reservist.

Although challenging at times, Elaine has always found that combining NHS nursing with her nursing in the RNR has brought benefit to both jobs.

Her RNR career has developed leadership and management skills (along with a lot of extra experience) that she has brought back into her civilian career and civilian nursing skills have been a huge asset to the Royal Navy and Royal Naval Reserve.

Sea deployments have not been the only test for Elaine’s skills. Elaine has mobilised for operations multiple times, including serving in Afghanistan twice, in 2008-9 and in 2011-12. 

Challenging as her medical work was, her 2011 operational tour had several highlights. It overlapped with the start of her husband’s mobilisation to Afghanistan (and his fortieth birthday) and she worked with her team on some hugely rewarding medical procedures.

One of her strong memories of that operational tour is working as scrub nurse in a life-saving open heart surgery operation on for a local Afghan child.

Thanks to the care of the British medical team, the child’s life was saved, and he was able to go back to his family and his village just four days later.  Elaine was also mobilised to serve in Iraq, in the UK’s furthest forward field hospital since the Battle of the Somme and has vivid memories of working in operating theatres with her gas mask on.

While she has delivered medical care in some of the harshest operational conditions, there have been lighter moments and in 2015 Elaine represented the Royal Naval Reserve on Good Morning Britain, moments before being part of the Colour Party at the Afghan Parade in London.