Paramedic on the Mediterranean

· Professional,Lived Experience

Words By Danny Ayling


It’s 0400hrs and I’m sipping on my last few mouthfuls of coffee looking out to an increasingly busy departure lounge. I am about to board a flight to the Mediterranean, to begin a new job as a paramedic on a cruise ship

As a paramedic I have always looked for something a bit different and health care roles at sea was something I was curious about. I saw jobs but these were advertised for nurses and doctors. However, one day I found a role for a for a paramedic on a cruise ship and I applied. I interviewed. I got the job. Although I was excited, I paused to think.

Ambulance service work had allowed me to meet people from all walks of life where I heard people’s stories and their advice. But it was in this advice that I was given a common theme emerged: Do things now because tomorrow is never promised.

Here was an opportunity to follow their advice so I paused to think about those patients who had lived with regret, those who never got to see tomorrow and those whose lives were changed in an instant. I had heard their message, so I had to take a leap of faith. I replied and accepted the job offer.

Fast forward a few months and I am now finishing my coffee about to board the ship, again. The ship has a height of 217 feet and 1,083 feet long with 19 decks weighing in at about 142,299 tons which is basically a floating city. There is a small medical team made up of two reception staff, three doctors, three nurses and two paramedics. The medical team are responsible for the health and well-being of every person on board (just under 5,000 people at full capacity).

My responsibilities as a paramedic include providing a high standard of routine and emergency care to guests and crew as well as triaging emergency calls, scene management, and transferring patients to the shipboard medical centre for further care. Through clinical guidelines, I am able to practice autonomously under the authority of the ship’s medical officers.

The medical team is available 24 hours a day and emergency calls on the ship are sent through to the duty paramedic pager. The medical team can provide intensive care standards while being very remote, and they can also provide primary care with follow ups and discharge or evacuation by sea or air.

Recently I had been dispatched to a trauma call. I had requested additional support which comprised a stretcher team made from crew members from other departments who receive additional medical and evacuation training. We transported the patient to the on-board x- ray room to undergo further assessment and the injuries sustained warranted a medically evacuation. The stretcher team transferred the patient to a tender (small boat often used to get on and off larger boats) to transport to an awaiting ambulance.

One of the extra perks of being a paramedic on board a cruise ship is it comes with officer status. You have your own cabin with private bathroom, steward services, access to amenities such as speciality dining restaurants as well as access to guest entertainment venues, discounts at the on-board shops and access to the guest gym. My favourite perk of working on board is the ability to get off at almost every port to explore. Compared to my former ambulance job it’s a very unique way of practising health care in a multidisciplinary team. If you are considering a change of career and like me have been on the search, my advice is if it is a frightening prospect, do it!

See you on the seas!

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