Supporting scientific study onboard RRS Discovery

At RMI, we specialise in providing bespoke medical solutions that support workers’ health and wellbeing in complex environments, including scientific exploration many miles out to sea.

James Jewells, Offshore Medic at RMI recently returned from a maritime medical staffing assignment onboard RRS Discovery on behalf of National Oceanography Centre for a research project with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). In the waters of the Weddell and Scotia Seas, BAS scientists planned to obtain data to understand the long-term variability in krill biomass at South Georgia and the influences of climate variability, fishing pressure and predation.

As the sole medic provider onboard RRS Discovery, James was responsible for all aspects of medical care, and needed to be on hand 24/7 for emergencies arising from both injury and illness. The expedition started with James familiarising himself with the vessel’s sick bay and supplies, before moving on to maintaining the area and other medical facilities and equipment, to ensure the best possible care for the crew.

Early on in the journey, having just left Uruguay, the first few motion sickness patients arrived at James’ door. While RRS Discovery’s crew were well experienced at sea, the 30 scientists onboard had limited sea-time experience; for a few it was their first time offshore at all. Thanks to the professionalism, competence and clear communication between the various teams and crew, James was able to treat the patients effectively without any further issues. Throughout the rest of the trip, James carried out first aid training, emergency drills and medical care admin, and as a result, injuries and illness were few and far between.

That’s not to say the trip was without excitement. Throughout his time onboard, James witnessed penguins, seals, whales, and even the A-76, which was the world’s the biggest iceberg before it broke into three.

Talking about his time onboard, James said: “can honestly say that after 10 years travelling the world as a medic, this trip is undoubtedly a career highlight bringing some wonderful firsts for me and offering up some remarkable imagery.”

“Most importantly, everyone made it home safe and well. If, in the future, another opportunity to work alongside BAS and the crew of RSS Discovery is available, I will be jumping at the chance. If any other medics reading this get the chance, then do not pass it up.”

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