Anna Shekhdar, Emergency Department Consultant at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, was one of the participants. Anna explains: “The Remote and Restorative course was borne out of recognition that the junior doctors had missed out on a significant number of off-site courses and training opportunities during the COVID pandemic. Colleagues have spent the past two years working hard in a high-pressure environment, so it was really important to provide a way for our teams to learn, while also enjoying something that is good for their morale and wellbeing.”The aim of the 2 days exercise is to teach important skills, such as leadership and communication, but taught in the remote setting. By working in teams, with familiar scenarios presented in unfamiliar surroundings, and sometimes unfamiliar equipment, the exercise encourages the groups to think outside the box and realise how human factors, as well as clinical skills, really impact on casualty care. Scenarios for training can include drowning, hypothermia and moving casualties with potential spinal injuries.
“We were extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to combine our kayak scenario training at Coverack Watersports Centre with the Lizard Lifeboat crew training,” Anna continues. “Robin and his team at the watersports centre and the Lizard lifeboat crew both worked together, meaning we were able to watch a demonstration of a casualty rescue using the winch onto the lifeboat. Following this, we all went onboard to witness the ongoing casualty care and facilities. Chris Cuff (retired Cornwall GP) and lifeboat doctor kindly showed us all the medical equipment, while Dan (head helm) and the crew gave a tour of the boat. These volunteers really are extraordinary people, and the protocols they follow to provide casualty care in this extremely challenging pre-hospital environment inspired us all.”
In addition to casualty scenarios and expedition medicine workshops in the remote environment, the doctors and consultants also focused on resilience and the mental health issues that may be brought to the forefront when in challenging environments such as on expedition or during a pandemic.
“Dr Sophie Redlin (GP and mental health specialist) gave an excellent workshop on how we can develop our own personal ‘emotional kit lists’ and did a very good job or normalising mental health in the work place. We were also inspired by a talk on the experience of an Emergency Medicine Consultant who had recently been invited to join a team on an Antarctic expedition, carrying out scientific studies in celebration of Shackleton’s endurance expedition,” Anna continues. “In workshops we looked at how we should look after patients and ourselves and so much of this vital awareness of mental health and vulnerability will hopefully be taken into these doctors’ future careers.”
The feedback from the almost 30 doctors enrolled on the course was highly encouraging, and in only 2 days the medics were visibly refreshed and reported feeling much more positive and enthused for their work. Early morning yoga and sea swimming also helped colleagues to feel rejuvenated, while tales around the campfire in the evenings were essential to maintaining team morale.