Ōtaki woman embracing change for RNZAF medical career

Julia Carpenter from Otaki has graduated from Defence Health School based at Burnham Military Camp following two-and-a-half years of study.

Ōtaki woman Julia Carpenter has overcome a serious head injury suffered in a car accident to embark on a career as a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) medic.

She has recently graduated from Defence Health School based at Burnham Military Camp following two-and-a-half years of study. Aircraftman Carpenter, 21, of Ngāti Whakatere/Ngāti Raukawa, said she had always had an interest in health.

“Growing up I saw that health care wasn’t always accessible in the community when it was needed and health outcomes in rural communities are often low. Eventually, I want to be part of providing a solution to this and be able to provide healthcare for, and give back, to my iwi.”

There were many training highlights but she really enjoyed the last field exercise before graduation.

“I found that this exercise gave me the confidence in my ability as a medic and also made me realise how many skills and knowledge I have gained.”

There were some challenges while completing training, the biggest was suffering a head injury in a car accident in 2019.

“My training was pushed back six months, as I needed some time off. It was a struggle because it gave me some temporary vision, memory and speech issues. But the New Zealand Defence Force and my unit were the most supportive workplace I could’ve asked for,” Aircraftman Carpenter said. 

With the support of her unit, friends and whanau, she was able to reintegrate into the workplace and study environment to continue her training.

“I have seen a lot of patients since with concussions, or who have been through similar experiences, so it has really helped me to empathise with their experience and provide better medical care,” she said.

Aircraftman Carpenter will now be posted to RNZAF Base Auckland to begin her new career fully qualified.

“I spent eight weeks on my final placement there and I am very excited to be part of such an awesome supportive unit with amazing opportunities on offer. I would like to now be able to advance and learn skills in aeromedical evacuation as well as the opportunities for further study in health pathways,” she said.

New Zealand Defence Force medics train in a tri-service environment at Defence Health School based at Burnham Military Camp. The training takes two and half years and is a mixture of theory and practical based.

They also experience on-the-job training at Health Centres across Defence Force camps, ships and bases around New Zealand.