What is Desert Medicine?

6 April 2023

Desert medicine is a type of wilderness medicine specific to desert locations, where extreme temperatures and challenging terrain are not the only challenges awaiting explorers. Medics in these environments require expertise in navigating the landscape, understanding endemic diseases and envenomation and how to administer medical care in the driest places on earth.

Why is desert medicine important?

Deserts are unique environments that are popular places for both tourism and scientific exploration. However, this uniqueness also extends to the challenges that come with exploring these terrains, and experienced guides and medics are essential for people to be able to make desert journeys safely. 

To work in deserts, medics need to develop a particular expertise in coping with the demands of such an inhospitable environment to be successful in future exploration and adventures in the driest places on earth. 

Deserts are arid environments that can pose significant health problems related to temperature, such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, dehydration and heat cramps, as well as endemic disease and risk of envenomation from local fauna.

Navigation in desert environments is also a challenge, and one that desert medics need to be well-prepared for, so that they can navigate, communicate and traverse the environment, whether by foot, by vehicle or by camel to get patients to safety.

Who practises desert medicine?

Any medical professional who wishes to expand their knowledge and skill set can learn the skills required to be a desert medic. These skills are essential for anyone looking to work in a desert environment, but many of the core field skills can be transferred across various austere environments.

Many projects and expeditions take place in the world’s deserts, where experienced medics and guides are required in order for these to be completed safely as the closest medical facilities will often be far away, and medical assistance teams may find it difficult to reach those in danger.

To be successful in desert medicine, medics will need a thorough understanding of heat-related illnesses, envenomation and endemic disease, while also being physically fit, and possessing strong leadership, navigational, risk assessment and incident management skills.

Our desert medicine course

Sign up to our Desert Medicine course and you’ll find yourself on a journey of discovery and learning in how to become an extreme medic in one of the most beautiful settings on earth. 

The stunning Sharqiya Sands in Oman play host to our Desert Medicine course providing the perfect desert environment; rolling sand dunes, spectacular mountains and only Arabian nomads and camels for company.

As with all the World Extreme Medicine courses, our aim is to provide a practical training course that endeavours to make those attending more comfortable using the medical skills they already have in an austere environment. 

Quite often in such extreme conditions, the environment can become a distraction and the focus taken away from the casualty and their needs. By offering practical learning in a specific environment and providing the skills needed to survive, course attendees will become better at diagnosing and practising their medicine, which in turn will lead to better patient care.

The Desert Medicine course aims to enable attendees to:

  • Be better equipped and confident in providing the right assessment and treatment in a desert environment.
  • Acquire and develop extreme medicine skills that can be used in any austere environment as well as specific skills applicable to desert medicine.
  • Enhance knowledge and skills relating to understanding, diagnosing and treating endemic illnesses, trauma plus specific desert and heat-related illnesses when presented.
  • Understand and develop the non-technical expedition skills required in a desert environment such as pre-expedition planning, communication, navigation and trekking, plus evacuation and rescue scenarios.

What will I learn on the Desert Medicine course?

Our Desert Medicine course is a great example of an amazing training programme on the ground in one of the most inhospitable places in the world. This course runs more like an expedition; so real-life experience learning about core and desert specific field skills such as public health, navigation and casualty evacuation chain, interspersed with specific medical training. Plus, the best part of the course, actually getting out into the desert and sleeping under the stars – a magical experience not to be missed!

As part of the medical training on our Desert Medicine course, you will be looking at managing the endemic diseases often seen in the desert. You’ll be learning and talking a lot about the heat and acclimatisation, how to manage heat illness, as well as dealing with potential traumas associated with the sort of vehicles used in our journey.

Who should attend this course?

This specialised course is open to any qualified medical professional wanting to expand their knowledge and skill set in Desert Medicine; with a particular focus on heat-related illnesses and endemic diseases. 

The course offers a unique learning opportunity whether you are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience in a beautiful location or need to learn new skills for your job. It’s perfect for potential and existing expedition medics looking to take their medical skills into the extreme, physicians who want a higher level of understanding or anyone wanting to work in an austere environment, as a lot of the core field skills learnt can be transferred across the various environments.

The medics who would benefit the most and are those that will actually find themselves working in the desert or in a hot environment. The majority of attendees from last year’s course were medics who were going to be working in a desert environment and, from their feedback, they found the course really beneficial.

Where else in the world could you receive such hands-on experience, be part of a unique learning experience and have an adventure of a lifetime. To find out more and to experience our Desert Medicine course for yourself, please click here.

You can also read our blog or visit our e-learning section, a digital resource for extreme medical professionals, packed with podcasts, webinars, interviews and presentations – amongst which you’ll discover plenty of valuable information on desert medicine. 

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