As a wintering expeditioner, I was preparing for a once in a lifetime adventure to the frozen continent as a carpenter when I received a call, months before departure, asking if I would be interested to also become a lay surgical assistant. This involved two weeks of training at the Royal Hobart Hospital.
The training process covered basic anatomy, anaesthetics, handling and identifying surgical instruments, preparing surgical trays for procedures, scrubbing and maintaining a sterile field, draping a patient and patient care.
Not really knowing what to expect, but bursting with enthusiasm, we met our trainers who would guide us through this fantastic opportunity. Our first day was classroom lessons, which covered many areas to help give us a better understanding of what our role may involve and a good lesson in anatomy. From the second day we were straight into theatre, observing procedures like hand surgeries, spinal operations, melanoma removals, even tonsillectomies and ear grommets. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any more varied, I spent a day with a dental surgeon on a mouth that needed multiple surgical extractions and other work.
At the end of the training, we completed a training scenario to see how we would go and worked for the first time with our station doctor who we would be travelling south with. This scenario went flawlessly. Putting all of our newly learned skills into a mock situation gave me confidence in the knowledge that should I be called upon to assist, I would be ready.
It seems like a lifetime ago now, but I look back on those two weeks as being one of the best things I have ever done, and I am so grateful to have had that opportunity. I have so much respect for the incredible people who do this work, and hope that my new skills won’t be required but I am ready and willing if the need arises!
- Grant Murray, Davis station Carpenter