It’s a question I get asked over and over again. Expedition medicine is a small, competitive and relatively insular field. So exactly how do you go about breaking into this dream-world of Medicine?
I would say the first step is persistence. Check out our list of expedition medicine companies and contact them asking if they have any availability. The chances are they will not have any trips immediately available, but if you are lucky they will keep your CV on file and you will be in with a chance when they are staffing their trips for next year.
Importantly, keep in touch with companies once you have made the first contact. I don’t mean email them weekly- the poor person picking up emails for the company will probably be a bit freaked out if you do that- but check in every few months to make sure they get to know that you are really interested and available. This means you will be fresh in their minds and less likely to be overlooked for new trips.
The next, slightly more tricky, step is to be available. If you speak to most Expedition medics they will tell you their first break came in the form of a last minute cancellation. That was certainly the case for my first trip. It is difficult with rotas, on call commitments and fixed annual leave quotas, but if you do get offered a job at the last minute try everything within your power to get time off to go. Once you have that first trip under your belt things get a whole lot easier. So offer to work Christmas, swap your days for nights, do whatever you have to- it will be worth it, I promise you.
If you can’t get the time off, don’t beat yourself up. It happens and the companies are aware of this and of the rota problems doctors face. But if this is the case make sure you keep in contact with the company. Let them know you are working on getting the time off and as soon as it’s clear that it is not possible let them know with a polite and apologetic email. Don’t drag things out liger than necessary as this prevents the company looking for another doctor and will likely just irritate them in the long run.
Most importantly, don’t just ignore their email if you can’t do the job! You have been offered an incredible opportunity and the least you can do is thank them for offering it to you and apologise for not being available. If you just ignore their email the chances are you won’t be offered another gig. In contrast a thoughtful and appreciative email declining the opportunity won’t do you any harm in the eyes of the company.
So you moved heaven and earth and got the time off to go on the trip. Now you better make sure you are prepared to handle the most common things that come up on expeditions. The chances are you will have completed an expedition medicine course prior to applying, but if not it’s a really good idea to book onto one of these before you go. For a lot of companies this is a requirement, but even if it’s not it is really worth the time and money so you hit the ground running and make a good impression- not to mention so that you are adequately trained to keep the participants safe!
You can check out our list of recommended courses here.
Expedition companies are privately run organisations which rely on good feedback from participants. As such, making a great impression on your group is the number 1 guaranteed way to be invited back in future trips. Check out our valuable insider tips and other resources to ensure you wow your group and take the trip in your stride on our trip resources page.
And there you have it- you are now well on your way to building a career as an expedition medic! We wish you all the best for your first trip, feel free to get in touch if there’s anything else you need to know that we haven’t covered.
And when you get back from your expedition, don’t forget to write up your experience and share it with us via the contact page or at firstname.lastname@example.org.