International Women's Day 2021: Emma Bowes-Crick

To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, we have spoken to five incredible members of the Netball Family who all #ChooseToChallenge. 

Displaying resilience and determination, all these women either thrive working in a role or field some may perceive to be gender biased, continue to break down barriers or successfully challenge age stereotypes. 

In this article, we are delighted to feature Emma Bowes-Crick from Sussex. Emma has been involved in nursing for the Army for over 20 years and has fulfilled various deployments overseas in a variety of roles. 

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We spoke to Emma about her life in the military, what bravery means to her and more. 

On her life in the military 

I originally joined the regular Army in 1999 as a Nursing Officer. I was deployed to Bosnia in 2001, Kosovo in 2002 and Iraq in 2003. In 2009, I joined the Army Reserves and was deployed to Afghanistan and various overseas exercises in France, Germany, Canada and Kenya. I have served in a variety of roles including Head of the Theatre Department, second in command of the hospital facility in Germany, Senior Nursing Officer in Bosnia and I am currently Officer Commanding of a Detachment on the south coast. I have responsibility for the training, education and career management of those under my command. Being an Army Reservist offers me the flexibility to work in the NHS as well as deploy on operations.  

It has enabled me to complete a BSc (Hons) degree, trained me in advanced surgical techniques and advanced practice, state of the art clinical training, travel, sport, leadership and management training. My military training has given me transferable skills that can also be used in the NHS. The clinical training it gives me is something I could not access through the NHS but I am able to bring that knowledge to my place of work. I have gained skills in crisis management, logistics and leadership all of which have contributed to being able to stay calm under pressure, be flexible, adaptable and work as part of a team. Overall I think it gives you a “can do” attitude and a sense of responsibility.” 

On the challenges of lockdown 

At the beginning of the first lockdown, I was part of the military advisory team at the London Nightingale assisting the NHS with the build. I stayed on and worked a few shifts in the ICU once it opened. When I returned home, I took some time off to finish my dissertation and started running. Then it was back to work again. 

I miss the face-to-face interaction with people, I haven’t seen much of my military colleagues or my soldiers which has been difficult in terms of communication and training. I have organised a lot of online military training and we have online PT sessions every week which has been great for fitness. A lot of my military clinical courses have been cancelled and it was tricky finishing my degree without face-to-face tutorials. I have missed seeing my sister and my niece and nephews. They live in County Durham, so we haven’t seen them for quite some time. 

Working on an ICU was a real eye opener, I have a huge amount of respect for ICU nursing. I normally work in theatres, so am used to wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) all day but working in an unfamiliar environment with incredibly sick patients was challenging. However, being in the military I have been in unfamiliar and challenging situations before and have learned how to stay calm and adapt.” 

On her different work and netball roles 

“I captain and coach my local club side Sirens, and I help coach and captain the Army Medical Services squad and the Army Masters squad. The Army offers fantastic sporting opportunities including overseas tours, quality training, competitions and officials.  

Military netball is at a higher level than my club netball but it occurs less often. I play for my club every week whereas Army Masters play on weekends once a month from October until Inter Services in March. As an Army reservist, my duties are generally at weekends and evenings or I will take time off to go on exercise or deployments. I love my job in theatres but I also enjoy the added challenges and opportunities the Army offers me. As an Army reservist, I have the best of both worlds and I’m fortunate enough to be in a position to volunteer for deployments.  

I love what I do and no two weeks are the same for me. I could be working in theatres one week, away with the Army the next or playing netball the next. I don’t ever want to regret not going for something because I wasn’t sure about it. I often tell people not to have any regrets. If you are not sure about something just give it a go and see what happens. You can always walk away if it’s not for you. Oh, and I always tell people to look after their skin while they are still young. Wrinkles soon catch up with you!” 

On staying connected with her Netball Family 

“Unfortunately, Army netball hasn’t happened since last March but my club side managed to train over the summer using a car park belonging to the local Cats Protection League. We even managed to get a few friendlies under the new rules. The local league hasn’t managed to get going so, since the second lockdown, my Sirens team have been doing online Zoom fitness every Monday and Thursday. 

They all love their netball and are always keen to play. As a team we have come on leaps and bounds and, funnily enough, we have got to know each other better over lockdown because we speak a lot more on Zoom. Before we would turn up for our matches, play, then go home but now we have a natter before and after our fitness sessions.  

My closest netball family is my Army Medical Services team who I haven’t seen for over a year. Even though we see each other less often, when we do see each other it’s for longer blocks of time. We usually have whole weekends training where we all stay in accommodation together, spend all day training then go out in the evening. This is the team I go on overseas tours with. We have had some fabulous tours to South Africa, Barbados and Cyprus supported by Army Sports Lottery funding. Some of my closest friends are in this team and we have an incredible camaraderie amongst the squad.” 

On the impact of netball on her mental health  

“Being able to get some training and matches in at the end of the first lockdown was great. Keeping up with the Zoom fitness has definitely helped us all stay connected. Some of my club teammates have been working from home since last March so have really appreciated the chance to exercise. I have done a lot more fitness this year than I have ever done and really got stuck into running and high intensity training which has kept my mind as well as my body healthy. Having all the Vitality Netball Superleague matches available to watch has been great, and I really enjoyed watching the Vitality Roses in action during the Vitality Netball Legends Series.” 

On being one of the women featured for International Women’s Day 

“Slightly embarrassed as I’m sure there are far more interesting people than me. However, I feel very humbled and surprised that you have featured me. I was nominated for Any Dream We’ll Do by a fantastic coach called Shelley Copland who coaches my Army Medical Services and Army Masters side and she is an amazing woman.” 

Back in May 2020, England Netball launched an exciting new initiative ‘Any Dream We’ll Do’ to try and bring a little bit of happiness and hope to the Netball Family during the first lockdown. All individuals had to do was nominate a fellow member or group of members, tell us why they would be a worthy winner and most importantly, what their netball dream would be. Emma was selected as a winner and joined the Vitality Roses for a virtual training session. 

On being described as a role model 

“I’m not sure that I am a role model, it’s just that I’ve been around so long now that I’m part of the furniture. I would hope that my passion for netball and the Army is seen as a good thing, although I am super competitive which means I am the loudest, most annoying player on court which is often misunderstood! I hope that I instill a sense of integrity and commitment to those around me, and I hope that my teammates in all my teams know they have my loyalty.” 

On what ‘bravery’ means 

“I am brave enough to stand up for what I believe in and stand up for those who may not have the confidence to stand up for themselves. I have courage in my convictions, and I am not afraid of confrontation. Bravery to me is all those nurses and doctors who have worked tirelessly since the start of the pandemic. They have come to work every day for the past year in the most difficult of circumstances, dealing with unprecedented numbers of patients in a very frightening time and have had to deal with death on a daily basis, some of whom have been their own colleagues. I have experienced a tiny snapshot of what they have been dealing with for nearly a year now and I can’t imagine how tough it has been. I am full of admiration and respect for them. I wish I could have done more.” 

Find out more about all the individuals whose stories we’ll be sharing over the course of the week here.

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