The Importance of Medical Training

Azores, Spring, 2017. You come home to the boat first, after a night out celebrating another successful Atlantic crossing, and you find a semi-conscious crew member lying on his side at the bottom of the companion way.  You reach for your cell phone, but there are no service bars. You recall that there hasn’t been service lately, even if there was, who would you call? The other crew don’t have phones in service and you would not have a clue what the local emergency service number is. You do not know when the other crew members will return. So, what happened?

You quickly try to assess the situation.  A dozen disorganized questions pop into your head as panic and your adrenaline kicks in.

You cautiously approach the crew member and notice bruising on his forehead.  Do you stay? Do you go for help? Should you leave him on his back, on his side, or as he fell?  You rifle desperately through the vessels medical pack for the first aid kit.  It seems like a bit of a cruel joke as you pull out a number of items, that you assumed you knew how to use, everything looks the same.

“How absurd,” you think.  You have high quality gear – a top-of-the-line medical kit, the finest of navigation equipment, the best communication systems and all the finest luxuries in the world at your fingertips, but you have forgotten basic First Aid. You have always been considered the prepared one when it comes to First Aid supplies, especially for your own travel.  However, you didn’t pack the training, the knowledge, and the competence to help this crew member, or yourself.  You yell for help, but there are no other sounds, the dock is empty of human life – only the sounds of the crew members breathing and the otherwise now eerie silence of the sea.

Inherent in the yachting profession is risk.  Part of the allure of the yachting profession, whether open ocean or a deserted island, is that we are stripped of the cement and the security of our urban existence and forced to directly experience our environment and thus ourselves. We will never take all risk out of the yachting industry, nor would we want to.  However, with training and practice we can manage and mitigate certain threats when people get sick or injured.

Marine medicine is an art as much as it is a science.   MCA Medical Training courses, such as the Elementary First Aid or the Proficiency in Medical First Aid are your foundation to think creatively, adapt, and respond confidently to whatever casualties you may encounter at sea. Trauma and crushing injuries are our greatest risk. Emergencies are charged with emotion and unpredictability.  In just a few days, you will take away enough foundational knowledge to be a calm leader even under chaotic circumstances.  Time and time again, we learn that the only thing predictable about the ocean & life at sea, is its unpredictability.

Far too often, we take for granted that help is at our fingertips, a mere phone call away.  Call for help, and it will come – in the form of an ambulance stocked full of medics and supplies.  From there the emergency is out of our hands.  As an MCA Medical student, you will realize that on some occasion you are the help and that you and your vessel are the resources. There may be no transfer of care under these circumstances, at least immediately, but assurance and courage come with practice and preparation.

Now that you have taken the Medical Training you encounter this same crew member lying in the companion way. You immediately notice signs of a possible head injury and the imminent threat of Shock or Seizure.  After determining scene safety, you grab the gloves from your medical kit and immediately clear the crewman’s airway.  You then roll him onto his back taking cervical spine precautions and position his head and torso slightly uphill to decrease inter-cranial pressure.  After conducting a full patient assessment and ruling out any further life threats, you put the patient in recovery position while insulating him from the hard floorboards and covering him preventing further heat loss. You document your findings and monitor his vital signs, positioning him according to his blood pressure and breathing.

As the summer season winds up and the winter approaches, many yachts are looking to take advantage of the continued restrictions due to covid second and possibly third waves by locking down and conducting a refit.  This presents an ideal opportunity to schedule some training. Come join us at MSOS for a fast-paced, fun, and pertinent training that will empower and equip you with the training and confidence to work, live, and enjoy the superyacht life in a more responsible way.  We need to pack more than just a medical kit. Pack knowledge. Pack confidence. Pack your Dr ABC!

MSOS Students get some hands-on practice during our courses held on your vessel or in our classroom. This training and the resulting confidence one can attain with taking an 8-hour Elementary First Aid Course. These engaging 8 hours will allow you to recognize and treat a head injury or hypovolemic shock.  These 8 hours will train you to reduce a dislocation and make the difference between needing evacuation or returning to work and full mobility.  These 8 hours will teach you to tape, splint, irrigate and close certain wounds, and to learn life-saving interventions and patient assessment skills. Finally, it will prepare you with a medical kit and the knowledge to use its contents.  There is a good chance you will even have fun!

Amanda Hewson

MSOS Trainer and Nurse


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