Nurse practitioner transfers skills from land to sea

Published on LEUT Geoff Long (author), LSIS Nadav Harel (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Adelaide (L01)

Royal Australian Navy Nursing Officer Lieutenant Commander Roneel Chandra onboard HMAS Adelaide during Exercise SEA WADER 2020. (photo: LSIS Nadav Harel)
Royal Australian Navy Nursing Officer Lieutenant Commander Roneel Chandra onboard HMAS Adelaide during Exercise SEA WADER 2020.

When it comes to Defence careers, few could match for variety that of HMAS Adelaide’s incoming Senior Health Officer.

Lieutenant Commander Roneel Chandra joined the Australian Defence Force 20 years ago as an infantry soldier with the Australian Army. He commissioned as a Nursing Officer in the Army and rose through the ranks to Major. Lieutenant Commander Chandra transferred to Navy in 2018, taking his land-based medical skills into the maritime domain.

He said his dual-service career was particularly advantageous in joint operations, such as Exercise SEA WADER that Adelaide is currently participating in.

“When we get Army personnel coming through to look at our medical facilities in Adelaide, I can speak their language and I can relate to their experiences and background. I feel very comfortable working in a joint environment,” he said.

Lieutenant Commander Chandra has deployed to East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq during his career in the ADF. He has worked as Officer-in-Charge of the Parachute Surgical Team, Nursing Officer with the 2nd Commando Regiment, Health Centre Manager of Joint Health Command and Officer-in-Charge of the Shock Trauma Platoon.

When he transferred to Navy, Lieutenant Commander Chandra was seeking new work challenges that also allowed him to remain clinically current as a Nurse while also able to deploy.

“I had never worked in the maritime health environment so this was a new clinical environment for me and it has met the brief of providing new challenges,” he said.

“The thing I like most is the variety. I can be working at Liverpool Hospital to maintain my clinical skills one day, and the next I can be receiving a casualty in the ship’s resuscitation bay or conducting an aero-medical evacuation.”

Before joining Adelaide, his Navy career has seen him serve as the team leader of the resuscitation department at the Maritime Operational Health Unit and join a number of deployments including Joint Warfare Series 2018, Operation APEC ASSIST 2018, and Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019.

However, his Navy highlight is Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST, where he was part of HMAS Choules and the evacuation of more than 1300 civilians from the coastal town of Mallacoota, Victoria.

Growing up in the NSW coastal town of Nowra, where he attended Saint John the Evangelist Catholic High School, joining Defence was something that Lieutenant Commander Chandra always wanted to do.

“I never really wanted to do anything else, so being able to achieve a career in nursing while working in challenging environments in both Army and now Navy has been a dream come true,” he said.

His newest goal, when he officially takes up his Senior Health Officer role on HMAS Adelaide in December, is to continue integration and capability development with the Maritime Operation Health Unit and use his land-based trauma experience to shape the Primary Casualty Reception Facility in support of the ship’s company and Amphibious Task Group.

As Navy’s designated High Readiness Vessel, Adelaide is conducting a range of essential training off the east coast of Australia.

The training, which falls under Exercise SEA WADER, preserves her emergency capability to ensure that the ADF can respond to real-world emergencies or disasters, or to support civil authorities as directed by Government.