This week at Macquarie Island: 27 September 2019

A plumber, chef, electrician and meteorology observer walk into…

A day at the theatre

A plumber, an electrician, a chef and a meteorology observer walk in to an operating theatre.

Sounds like the start of a joke but in a remote location like Macquarie Island, it could be the exact opposite. Fortunately when this happened last week it was only part of the lay surgical team’s regular training.

Each year, prior to heading south, a small group of expeditioners is chosen to attend Royal Hobart Hospital and spend two weeks observing and assisting in real operating theatres with real patients.

The experience not only gives you a glimpse into a world most people never get to see, but it exposes you to the realities of what you may be called in to assist with if things were to go wrong during your year away. While the medical facilities on the stations are amazing and the doctors, extremely capable, it would still take a big team of trained people to work together if someone had an accident or serious illness.  

Fortunately for us, last week Billy the Field Training Officer offered the medical team her appendix and her questionable acting ability so that we could refresh our skills. Under the guidance of the station doctor Kate, the four members of the lay surgical team went through a 5 hour practice appendicetomy from start to finish.  

As far as practicable, the exercise was kept as real as possible and was a great learning experience for everyone involved.

As part of the team I feel the combination of the initial training in a real hospital environment, the ongoing training with our Doctor Kate and using the operating theatre equipment puts us in a great position if a real situation were to arise.

Billy survived.

Until next time, Shane Anaesthetic Assistant (and plumber)


Three men and one woman stand in a line dressed in green hospital scrubs
Through the patient’s eyes
(Photo: Billy Wallace)
Three people in scrubs stand around a patient laying in a hospital bed
Filling out the paperwork
(Photo: Lionel Whitehorn)
A patient lays in a hospital bed surrounded by three people in scrubs and face masks
Time to go to sleep
(Photo: Lionel Whitehorn)
A patient lays on a surgical bed and a doctor simulates an appendectomy surrounded by three assistants in surgical scrubs
The ‘opening’ scene…
(Photo: Lionel Whitehorn)
A doctor in scrubs holds surgical equipment to simulate removing an appendix
The villainous appendix is removed
(Photo: Shane Bilston)
Five people in surgical scrubs and masks stand around a patient in a hospital bed
A happy ending
(Photo: Lionel Whitehorn)