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I'm Not Your Typical SHO...

Written by Dr Rachel Saunders · Tuesday 19th February 2013

I'm an SHO, but I don't have your typical ward based job. In the last four years I have treated in jungles, underwater (in scuba gear), 5m from a gorilla, up a volcano, on a beach, at altitude, on safari, in a bog and on a boat. Expedition medicine is a great way to travel the world, take time out whist expanding your CV, and be physically and mentally challenged and develop your skill and knowledge base.

As a doctor, you can undertake expeditions during your 'spare time' but it is more common for doctors to go on expeditions between F2 and specialty training. This is the ideal time either because you have been working for the last 7 years and either you need a break, the NHS has broken you, or you don't know what you want to do with your career and need time to think. At this point I would recommend using your F2 course/study budget on an Expedition Medicine course. They are expensive, but the knowledge and skill base you gain makes you more prepared and competitive for expedition jobs.

There are many types of Expedition Medicine jobs ranging from endurance sports races to scientific expeditions. Although the jobs differ, there are many ailments common to all. You should expect to treat diarrhoea and vomiting, insect bites, blisters, cuts, injuries, and GP complaints such headaches and exacerbations of chronic illnesses. More serious injuries and illnesses can occur so it is good to be prepared as possible. To help, ensure your medical kit is labelled and organised e.g. labelled cannulation kit, emergency kit is always accessible and you are familiar with the casevac plan.

Your role as an Expedition Medic involves more that the treatment of clients. A typical job also includes client selection and education, risk assessment, updating casevac plans, stock-checking kit, health promotion, project management and writing debriefs.

What's Right For You?

If you're keen to do Expedition Medicine, first think about where you want to go and then for how long. Think hard about these choices. A 6 month expedition through the jungle sounds exciting, but if you don't like spiders, creepy-crawlies and leaches, and the furthest you have travelled is an all-inclusive to Mallorca, then it might be best to start with a 4 week expedition in France. When you have an idea of what you want to do there are many organisations that you can apply to, including:

Each organisation will have different aims, clients, resources and responsibilities so pick one that suits you.

Have fun and feel free to post any question below.

Responses

Dr.Stefan Buttigieg
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Medical Doctor - Mater Dei Hospital
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Posted almost 7 years ago
Brilliant post! Thanks for this contribution!
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Conrad Hayes
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Medical Student - Keele
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Posted almost 7 years ago
That's really interesting! I'm currently a 4th year student and I want to do Expedition Medicine, so this has really been helpful to read. I'm just wondering if you have any suggestions for student electives relating to expedition medicine? My dates ar
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Dr Rachel Saunders
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Core / Specialist / Gp Trainee
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Posted almost 7 years ago
[Project Amazonas](http://www.projectamazonas.org/medical-trips) has a shorter expedition running around the dates you want to go. I can't vouch for them personally, but it was suggested by a contact.
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Conrad Hayes
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Medical Student - Keele
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Posted almost 7 years ago
Thank you again for your help, I've got in contact with Project Amazonas and will see what they offer! Certainly sounds like it could be what I'm after.
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Dr Rachel Saunders
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Core / Specialist / Gp Trainee
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Posted over 6 years ago
Hi Emily, I did a couple of courses in the UK- choose a course that gives you skills for the type of job you want to do. A generic but good course is the Expedition and Wilderness Medicine Course ran by Expeditionmedicine.co.uk. This company is parti
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Dr Rachel Saunders
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Core / Specialist / Gp Trainee
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Posted almost 7 years ago
Hey lisa, If you are interested in the physiology side of things I know a company that provides medics for endurance races and med students can also come along. The downside is the short duration of the trips so they would have to be booked in conjunct
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Dr Rachel Saunders
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Core / Specialist / Gp Trainee
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Posted over 6 years ago
Hi Abbi and Meera, Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I have never used Exile medics, but I have heard very positive things about their company, so If you are interested in shorter placements, they would be a good team to be involved with.
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Meera Lakhani
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Medical Student - Barts And The London
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Posted over 6 years ago
Hi! Your story is incredible, I'm really interested in doing Expedition Medicine and that has really inspired me! I would definitely like to have do something really out there for my Elective. I don't mind where I go, but the experience in Expedition/Wild
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Dr Rachel Saunders
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Core / Specialist / Gp Trainee
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Posted almost 7 years ago
I actually run an electives expedition medicine company- as I had he same problem as a medical student! Unfortunately, I'm dong a masters in tropical medicine at the moment, so our company isn't operating - otherwise i would have offered you a placement
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Abbi Forsyth
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Posted over 6 years ago
Also, if you have any suggestions for electives that I could do that started for the 8 week period from the 23rd June 2014, I would be real grateful! We have no restrictions on companies e.t.c and can do split electives if we wish
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Conrad Hayes
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Medical Student - Keele
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Posted almost 7 years ago
Thank you very much for that, it would be brilliant. I've just sent off an email to OPWAL, it does sound like it would be right up my alley! Only issue I may have, and I'll have to discuss it with my medical school, is they don't allow us us to use compan
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Lisa Roberts
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Posted almost 7 years ago
Such an inspirational story! I've always been interested in Expedition Medicine, this lead me to study Exercise Physiology as my intercalated degree. I'm more interested in the beach or low level areas as I can get quick sick at altitude. Again I'm looki
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Abbi Forsyth
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Posted over 6 years ago
Hi Rachel,I found your article really interesting and I noticed that you recommended an elective in NZ in the ski fields, I wondered if you have any up to date contact details for these areas, as I am having great trouble getting in contact with them, or
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Abbi Forsyth
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Posted over 6 years ago
Hi, Many thanks for that. I've been n touch with the practice manager there who confirms the are no longer taking students for any placements. Looks like a change of plan needed for me!! Thanks
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Dr Rachel Saunders
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Core / Specialist / Gp Trainee
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Posted over 6 years ago
Hi Abbi, The only ski patrol clinic that i think is still operating for electives is at Mt Ruapehu. The webpage for the clinic is http://www.mtruapehu.com/winter/medical_centres/ i'd recommend giving them a call as they dont put their email address o
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Emily cant
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Foundation Doctor - John Radcliffe
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Posted over 6 years ago
Hiya, You blog was really interesting, thanks! I was just wondering how you got into expedition medicine? Did you just go on a course? Once you have chosen a course that you are interested in how do you get jobs? Thanks for any help! Emily
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