Expedition Medicine Course participants challenged by the elements

Freezing temperatures, heavy rain and night-time conditions were just a few of the challenges faced by participants of the 2017 Winter Expedition Medicine Course, recently completed at the Arm River in the State’s Central Highlands.

Delivered by the University of Tasmania’s School of Medicine and the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), the eight-day course provides participants with practical experience in expedition skills and providing medical care in extreme environments.

The course is offered as part of the Faculty of Health’s Master of Public Health (Remote and Polar Health) course.

This year’s course involved 22 participants, including Antarctic-bound doctors, other medical practitioners at various stages of their careers and outdoor wilderness instructors.

Dr Paul Scott from the University’s School of Medicine, who has been part of the course since its inception in 2006, said it brought a wonderful mix of people and experiences together.

“One of the huge benefits of this course is that doctors and highly skilled outdoor professionals are responding together to complex scenarios,” he said.

“Participants will be confronted with a wide array of complex medical scenarios and often there are very comprehensive technical obstacles which they need to overcome before they are able to access injured patients.  

“On a personal level for me it is also refreshing to be around such a motivated highly skilled group of people, many of home bring with them the most amazing stories of adventure.”

Dr Scott said the partnership between the University and the Australian Antarctic Division created an ideal training ground for doctors and outdoor professionals interested in remote and polar medicine.

AAD Antarctic Division Medical Practitioner Dr Clive Strauss said while the course challenged participants and put many out of their comfort zones, it was a great basis for expedition and emergency incident learning.

“It’s does push people but I also think that is when they learn more,” he said.

“The course provides training to manage any incident in the field including difficult rescues and medical emergencies [and] focuses on cold because that is when things go wrong and you’re dealing with issues such as hypothermia.”

Dr Strauss said the course was about introducing participants to a standard Accident Management Plan system they could fall back on and not get overwhelmed when it was cold, rainy, dark and when tiredness set in.

“When the going gets tough that training kicks in and you need to know you’ve been there before and have that training behind you,” he said.

Image: Heath Holden

Published on: 01 Aug 2017 3:30pm