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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.