Below is short description by 3rd year Hull University medical student, Charlie Rowland, of his experience as an intern for EWM! Charlie won his intern place on the March 2012 Expedition & Wilderness Medicine UK Course with a great application that showed he is one to watch as he moves into the Expedition Medicine scene.
The winner of the May 2012 course will be announced on Sunday 8th April.
With all of the pressures that medical students and junior doctors are under to find foundation jobs and positions on core training posts, we could be forgiven for forgetting that the NHS only really represents part of the spectrum of opportunities that are available to us as qualified medics. For my own part (and despite the fact that becoming a doctor has been my ambition for as long as I can remember), I have often harboured a sneaking suspicion that the usual route through the NHS would not provide me with the challenges that I am after in my career. With that in mind, If there is one that I thing that I took away from the Expedition and Wilderness Medicine course that I recently had the privilege of attending as a student intern, it is that there is a hell of a lot of adventure out there for medics who go looking for it.
The course saw fifty doctors and nurses from as far afield as Australia, converge on a quiet corner of the Lake District for four days of intensive instruction and advising on the jobs available, the challenges faced and the skills required of medics working as part of an expedition team. As the ‘student intern’ on the course, it was my responsibility to time-keep the sessions so that the packed timetable ran to schedule and to help organise the equipment for the next day’s activities: A small price to pay, given that after this, I was free to participate in all of the course activities.
The course is aimed at providing medics (with an interest in the more unconventional lines of work) with a broad introduction to the field of Expedition Medicine. The programme is a mixture of lectures and practical sessions: Over the first three days we were taught about the more commonplace expedition maladies and how to manage them and introduced to some of the useful bits of kit used to treat specific conditions (I was particularly impressed by the portable recompression chamber – essentially a big, airtight, rubber sleeping bag – which can be pumped up to pressure for the treatment of acute altitude sickness). We were also introduced to important logistical and practical matters such as public health, procuring medical kits and planning evacuations. The practical sessions then covered the basic skills required of expedition members such as emergency rope-work, improvised stretcher techniques, radio and communications protocols and water purification (to name but a few).
The week climaxed in a search and rescue exercise in which the lessons of the previous days were put into action. In teams, we had to navigate our way to our casualties, deal with multiple injuries and illnesses, organise a helicopter extraction over the radio and finally package up and evacuate our patients. The day tested everyone’s abilities and resolve to the limits and despite the wealth of medical expertise within the group, It was great to see so many highly skilled doctors having to work hard to read maps and communicate over the radios.
The practical and medical aspects of the course were, undeniably, brilliant fun and a great learning experience. However (at the risk of sounding a little cheesy) of more value to me was the opportunity to take in the experiences of doctors who have not followed the typical, well-worn path through medicine – at least not without having plenty of fun along the way. The week was filled with stories of challenges, adventures, successes, close shaves and catastrophes which, without fail, had me on the edge of my seat with my jaw hanging open. As a medical student who is increasingly possessed by a desire to see more of the world before settling into any kind of steady job, I found the entire experience downright inspirational.
The EWM course was a real vindication of my aspirations and the steps that I have begun to make to take myself towards them. Taking in the experiences of the EWM faculty has given me a renewed enthusiasm for what I am doing and what I am working towards and, in short, I feel I have a much clearer idea of the sorts off the directions that I want my life to take me in.
Join us on the next Expedition Medicine course….
Happy Easter everyone!
University Liaison for Expeditoin & Wilderness Medicine