The people that make up the 69th ANARE at Davis this year only number 16 over the winter. There are countless additional tasks that need to be undertaken to keep things humming along, and as such we have volunteers that take these on in addition to their normal role on station. These jobs include fire team member, search and rescue team member, hydroponics, ‘Fort Knox’ manager, electoral returning officer, WHS officer, librarian and field equipment manager to name just a few.
Another of these roles is that of lay surgical assistant (LSA). There are no ‘nurses’ here so four of us spent two weeks at the Royal Hobart Hospital as part of our pre-departure training learning how to assist in the delivery of safe and effective perioperative care under the direction and supervision of our Antarctic Medical Practitioner more commonly known as ‘Doctor John'. We undertake either the role of anaesthetic assistant — Brett S and Craig B or scrub/scout assistant — Dave D and Paul D.
The two week crash course includes subjects on patient care, preparation and perioperative monitoring, aseptic technique in the operating environment, infection prevention, handling and care of surgical instruments and equipment together with role specific tasks such as anaesthesia management and surgical procedures in an operating theatre environment. This is a unique medical training course for AAD expeditioners.
Our LSA team this year comprises a carpenter, an electrician, a meteorological observer and a communications technician. Skills in our primary roles have also come in handy undertaking the LSA position, bringing a whole new meaning to the word multi-skilled.
To maintain our knowledge in case we ever need to use these newly acquired skills, we attend fortnightly sessions in the Davis medical facility with Doctor John to go over every type of clinical equipment held on station and practice techniques that will hopefully give the rest of the station confidence we will be able to assist them with any medical incident.
This was all put to the test with a practice search and rescue (SAR)/medical scenario this week when Vas was uncharacteristically noted as absent from smoko. The fact that Leslie had made sausage rolls alerted us all something was wrong, and Ali raised the SAR alarm. After a quick briefing a station search was instigated and Vas was located in the LQ plant room, unconscious, with signs of trauma from a fall.
The team work by all station members rapidly stabilised the patient and safely evacuated him to the Davis medical facility where Doctor John and the LSA team went into action.
Fortunately, apart from some hair loss due to sticky ECG pads, Vas made a full recovery and was seen at work later in the day, despite requesting a day’s recovery time from the Doc for his suffering.
I now know why they use the term medical ‘practice’!