What is an Expedition Medic? A guide to this exciting career and how you can get involved

Expedition Medic | What is an Expedition Medic | World Extreme Medicine

An Expedition Medic is quickly becoming one of the hottest career choices for medical professionals. Find out what the role involves, what training is available, and where to find exciting new career opportunities.

What is an Expedition Medic?
Expedition Medics are responsible for the physical and psychological wellbeing of people during expeditions, often in austere environments where access to medical services is limited, or in some cases, non-existent.

Expedition Medics need to evaluate, prioritise, and conduct preliminary treatment of acute injuries or illnesses until emergency evacuation can occur. Their role encompasses skills from doctors, paramedics, nurses, and physiotherapists.

But how did we arrive at the term ‘Expedition Medic’? Let’s take a look back through history…

Before the Romans, the Ancient Greeks chartered new territories and fought in wars to expand their empire. Their armies would have almost certainly ventured into remote environments during these expeditions and had medical assistance alongside.

Greek poet Homer refers to a medical incident during the Trojan War. When Menelaus was wounded by a Trojan bowman, the fleet surgeon, Machaon (son of Aesculapius, god of medicine), was called to treat the wound. Although the term ‘Expedition Medic’ may not have been used back then – the role has existed for thousands of years.

Expedition Medics today
Today’s Expedition Medic has come a long way from empire expansion. Of course, there are still educational trips, expeditions for scientific discovery, and military needs, but adventure travel is increasing in popularity, as is charity fundraising events, extreme challenges, and enjoy personal travel.

Regardless of the goal or reason for the expedition, the aims and responsibilities of the Expedition Medic remain the same. They need to minimise the risk of trauma and diseases and need to anticipate medical problems.

So, what does an Expedition Medic do?
The primary role of an Expedition Medic is to look after the physical and psychological wellbeing of people before, during, and after an expedition. No two adventures are the same, and each will bring a variety of challenges, physically and mentally, which is why thorough planning is essential.

Expedition Medics play a key role in supporting an expedition. They draw on three areas of expertise to ensure the success of the trip.

  1. Clinical
    First and foremost, an Expedition Medic will use their knowledge of first aid and emergency and primary healthcare skills to treat injuries and illnesses that may occur.
  2. Expedition
    Secondary to their medical expertise, Expedition Medics play a full role in the expedition, taking on general, non-medical roles such as assisting with research, bushcraft, climbing, navigating, or photography.
  3. Interpersonal
    An Expedition Medic will also be able to use their excellent communication skills to maintain the physical and psychological health of the team members. The presence of a medic can provide a psychological benefit to the group, and if an accident does occur, they can provide emotional back-up for the expedition team.

How do you become an Expedition Medic?
You will be able to gain valuable experience by joining expedition courses, such as our Expedition and Wilderness Medicine qualification.

Our four-day course is open to any doctor, nurse, paramedic or other medical professional. We offer unique learning opportunities by blending engaging lecture content with hands-on practical workshops out in the wilderness, culminating in a real-time search and rescue simulation. By the end of the course, you will have gained skills in planning an expedition, understanding climate, wound care, and how to look after mental health.

You don’t need any prior experience of expeditions to join us; the only prerequisite is that you need to be a Medical or Allied Health Professional or a medical student in the final two years of study.

What career opportunities are available after the course?
Many of our Expedition and Wilderness Medicine course alumni are part of expeditions across the globe. They are responding to natural disasters and emergencies or enjoying placements with organisations such as Raleigh International, UK-Med, Team Rubicon and Médecins Sans Frontières.

One of our recent students, Thomas, said: “This course was a comprehensive introduction to the world of wilderness medicine … [and] a great opportunity to network and learn amongst similarly-minded individuals.

“Across the board, the faculty have experience working in hostile and austere environments and bring a diverse skill set to the table, presenting their own minds on what has worked for them in the field.

“I could not recommend this course highly enough to anyone considering taking their medical or nursing career in a more exciting direction.”

Critical Care International and Adventure Medic feature an exciting list of opportunities.

As the expedition world evolves and groups with more complex needs are commonly taking part in expeditions, the range of healthcare providers required can be incredibly varied. This could include joining research trips with universities or charitable aid missions to remote parts of Africa.

These are exciting paths. Paths less trodden.
As Bear Grylls once said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Have you got what it takes to #BeExtreme?

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