Future Naval doctors’ experience life on RFA Mounts Bay

Navy doctors of tomorrow joined RFA Mounts Bay in the Caribbean for an inkling of the job they’ll perform when qualified.

Surgeon Sub-Lieutenants Isabel Guy and Jonathan Jackson are four years into their medicine studies at Birmingham and Sheffield universities.

When they complete their courses – and their training as Royal Navy officers – running a sick bay on a destroyer, frigate or auxiliary such as Mounts Bay is likely to be one of their drafts as general duty medical officers.

So a two-week ‘taster’ was provided aboard the support ship – currently on drug-busting/disaster relief duties – under the tutelage of Mounts Bay’s medical officer, Surg Lt Rory Goodenough.

It’s provided me with an invaluable insight into life as a RN Medical Officer, helping me to feel significantly more prepared for my time as a deployed.

Surgeon Sub-Lieutenant Isabel Guy

Assisted by RFA medical technicians, on top of general GP care, it’s the task of the medical officer to provide ‘Role 1’ and potentially ‘Role 2’ care: the first demands delivering immediate first-aid on the battlefield, the second life-saving surgery so a patient can be transferred to a hospital ship or medical facility ashore.

The ‘doctor’s surgery’ opens at 7.45 for any overnight medical cases, followed by a spot of training, a check on medical and humanitarian supplies, some first-aid instruction for the ship’s company and support to many of the daily activities and drills: man overboard, engine room fires, helicopter crashes.

For Isabel and Jonathan, as well as the novelty of life at sea among the biggest eye openers were the limitations faced by RN medics at sea: limited resources, limited space and limited number of personnel to draw on for assistance plus the opportunities offered by a life at sea that you wouldn’t get in your local general hospital or GPs’ surgery: a few days in Curacao or Miami; scuba diving; windsurfing; snorkelling with turtles; cheering on the Miami Heat basketball stars.

“All will remain fantastic memories,” said Isabel.

“I’ve also been lucky enough to see and do some incredible things: from wandering the colourful streets of Curacao and snorkelling with turtles to stargazing in the middle of the Caribbean Sea; it’s been utterly surreal and I’m hugely grateful.”

And professionally? “This acquaint has been fantastic,” she adds. “It’s provided me with an invaluable insight into life as a RN Medical Officer, helping me to feel significantly more prepared for my time as a deployed.

I am thoroughly excited to see what my future career holds and cannot wait to get stuck in to more brilliant opportunities offered by the Royal Navy.”

Her colleague Jonathan said the fortnight with Mounts Bay had been “enjoyable and enriching experience”.

Surg Lt Rory Goodenough was delighted with the progress the students made while aboard. “The next time they join a ship will probably be as a fully-fledged medical officers, so it has been an invaluable chance to teach them the daily routines of a deployed ship.

“In two short weeks Surgeon Sub-Lieutenants Guy and Jackson went from complete greenbacks who didn’t know their stem from their stern to old hands who have even started to talk in Jackspeak!”