Doctor @ Sea : Horses for courses – names for medical courses


Horses for courses is an olde worlde saying drawn from the equestrian world and, put another way, it is an expression “used for saying that it is important to choosesuitablepeople for particularactivities because everyone has different skills” (Cambridge Dictionary). Sounds simple enough and makes a lot of sense but can unravel a bit when the courses sometimes go by different names even when ultimately they are referring to the same training exercise.

This is certainly true about MCA medical training courses and I had an email in early March bemoaning the plethora of names used to describe the old Ship Captain´s Medical course. For quite a few years it has been called the Medical Care Onboard Ship course and, more recently, simply Medical Care although the official title is Proficiency in Medical Care. To add to the confusion, the email referred to Medical Care at Sea and the additional uncertainty would understandably make that person think twice before parting with any money. This was one of several unsolicited outbursts of frustration from yachties in the past few weeks and, on the basis that three “represents the full body of public opinion”, it seemed time to try to clarify the names of the courses and their inter-relationships.


The clincher when identifying a course is to look for the STCW criterion standard for that course which, in the case of Proficiency in Medical Care is STCW Reg. VI/4 Sect. A-VI/4-2 – this (immediately forgettable!!) notation is invaluable when deciding if a particular course or certificate is the right one for you. We include it on our website (see below) and it must be included in the certificate awarded on successful completion of the course.


The eligibility requirement for Medical Care training is the Proficiency in Medical First Aid certificate and this is another potential pitfall because it is often referred to as the Advanced First Aid course, being the medical component of the Advanced STCW. This other name is a useful shorthand but can be misleading/confusing when looking at an unfamiliar checklist of names. The STCW criterion standard provides the final authority and, for this course, is STCW Reg. VI/4 Sect. A-VI/4-1 which we also quote on our website to minimise uncertainty. It must always be quoted on the certificates issued and then it is easier to check out at a later date when thumbing through a list of requirements before sending stuff off to the MCA.


Guidance on these courses is summarised in Marine Information Note MIN 385 (M) “Medical First Aid and Medical Care certification requirements” and one interesting point to emerge from this is that the certificates for Medical Care (and the related Update/Refresher course) are not time-limited – in other words, once having trained to that level the certificate provides paper evidence which is respected indefinitely for certification purposes. However, anyone literally providing medical care must have a certificate which is less than five years old and this responsibility applies to the Captain and anyone to whom the Captain delegates the responsibility of medical care.

The 2010 Manila Amendment to the STCW Convention 1978 has introduced various five yearly updating requirements in certification but the medical training courses seem to have escaped for the time being. The relevant document to read is MIN 469 (M) “Requirements for Updating Training in Accordance with the 2010 Manila Amendments to the STCW Convention 1978”.  Para 4 confirms that the in-date certificate is required for medical care responsibility but (Annex A) that Updating is not required for Certification purposes. This is consistent with MIN 385 (M), and previous advice from the MCA, that evidence of previous training to Medical Care standard, irrespective of when, is sufficient to confirm eligibility for the Update course if an individual is seeking an in-date certificate to be responsible for medical care on-board.

In other words, an out-of-date Medical Care/Update certificate only requires the three day Update course for a new certificate and does not oblige candidates to do the full five day Medical Care course unless time, budget and motivation over-ride.

This is a particularly busy few months for training providers as boats come back from the Caribbean and local vessels wake up from winter yard periods – lots of people are busy using the lull before the Mediterranean season to do courses and to get their qualifications in order. We are running the MCA medical courses almost monthly until June and then again in the autumn – and we do our best to point the right horses to the right courses!



Also read

Get your hard-copy now!

Your advert in The Islander Magazine?

Get your hard-copy now!

Your advert in The Islander Magazine?

and receive your invitation to our events