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Working as a Medic in the TV & Film Industry

26 October 2022

Lights, camera, action!

The world of film and television production is a captivating realm that not only entertains millions but also requires a dedicated team of professionals to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved. 

Among these essential roles is that of the medic, who stands at the intersection of adrenaline-fueled excitement and critical healthcare.

World Extreme Medicine faculty member Daniel Grace has immersed himself in the world of film and TV production as a Medic on the set of the US reality TV show ‘Survivor’ during his four-month assignment in Fiji. Drawing from his experiences, he provides invaluable insights into the realm of medical support in the entertainment industry.

Join us as we explore the diverse medical scenarios you might encounter, the challenges you could face, and the exciting opportunities available for healthcare professionals.

→ Before delving deeper, be sure to watch our film & TV showreel, showcasing some of the incredible film sets we have worked on…

Who can work as a Film/TV medic?

In theory anyone with appropriate training can apply to work as a medic in the entertainment industry. Productions will tend to recruit a range of different healthcare professionals depending on the type of project, where it is being filmed and the potential risks involved.

For example, covering a TV set for a sitcom has a significantly different risk profile than working on a survival series in an austere wilderness location, and accordingly the person specification will differ because of this.

As with traditional expedition medicine work, it is important to come from a generalist background, and be comfortable with managing uncertainty, as you may be a long way from definitive care.

Join a World Extreme Medicine training course to learn expedition and wilderness medicine

You should be comfortable with managing unwell patients, whether this is due to trauma or a medical cause, and you should also be comfortable in managing women’s health, sexual health and chronic diseases.

Unlike many expeditions, you will often have a much larger logistics team with producers to help plan, co-ordinate, and finance possible medical evacuations, however this does not mean that you can afford to be complacent. It is always prudent to review any risk assessments, and medivac plans prior to arriving in country.

What kind of medicine might I see?

Anything can happen in the wilderness that can happen back home. Common things are common and a lot of the time you are caring for the support crew as much as the cast or participants.

On a large production your theoretical patient list can stretch into the hundreds or thousands, with carpenters, electricians, boat drivers, divers, cooks, cameramen, audio technicians and more, who are all subject to occupational injuries and trauma.

A tropical ulcer requiring skin care and antibiotics (Credit: Dan Grace)

It is therefore vital to understand the risks involved and how to mitigate for these, in order to reduce your workload and prevent unnecessary morbidity and mortality.

It is also important to have your public health hat on, to prevent and manage issues like gastroenteritis outbreaks, which can delay filming and significantly impact on production timelines.

Depending on where you are working, there may be environmental issues to consider. These may include extremes of temperature, altitude, flora and fauna, tropical diseases, contaminated water sources, and the risk of drowning. As with all wilderness medicine scenarios, mental health and psychological issues are always relevant and important to identify early on whenever possible.

What are the potential challenges?

Unlike when working on an expedition, you may not have pre-existing knowledge of the entire cast and crew. Although hopefully you should be informed about any individuals with high risk issues, such as a history of anaphylaxis or similar.

As with all medical work, there is the potential risk of non-disclosure, and individuals may also have a history of, or ongoing substance misuse issues, which can have a significant impact.

You may frequently be working with an organisation that employs a multinational workforce. This is one of the huge benefits of this type of work and networking, meeting new people, and sharing experiences can be hugely rewarding.

It can however be challenging at times if you are faced with health beliefs that are significantly different to what you are used to within western medicine. In these cases, developing a shared management plan may be difficult or impossible and this can be hard to accept.

Sometimes you may have to balance production ideas against patient safety and risk, and this can be tricky as you may often have different competing objectives. They want to create drama, tension and make a show, whilst you are there to ensure that this happens safely and treat any complications.

This can potentially lead to a juxtaposition of what should happen next for the individuals in question. Being able to articulate your concerns, discuss the pros and cons and negotiate a safe compromise is really important and having a good understanding of human factors can be really useful. Read more about Dan’s insight into Human Factors here >  

What are the best bits?

As with a lot of wilderness medicine work, the ability to travel to beautiful remote locations and become part of a new team of people with varying skills from multiple background is immensely rewarding.

The scenery can be stunning (Credit: Dan Grace)

It is great to be able to chat to people working in different departments, find out about their journeys and experiences and potentially pick up some skills for future projects. It is also fascinating to observe the process by which a media production comes together and how so many moving parts combine to deliver the final project.

How to get involved?

If you’re passionate about combining your medical expertise with the magic of film and television, consider exploring opportunities in this dynamic field. Join us at World Extreme Medicine and embark on a training course to learn the skills necessary to thrive as a film/TV medic. 

Join a World Extreme Medicine training course to learn expedition and wilderness medicine

There are also various organisations periodically advertise for these sorts of jobs, including the World Extreme Medicine job board and the Adventure Medic.

Lights, camera, medical action awaits!

We hope Dan’s insight has given you a flavour of what it can be like providing TV or film cover as a Medic. Visit The Wilderness Medic for more from Dan.

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