Why did you decide to work as a cruise ship doctor?
I had a number of colleagues that had previously worked at Carnival UK, and had always spoken fondly of their experiences. I had enjoyed working independently in Emergency Departments, and preferred the smaller teams in District General Hospitals, so felt that the shift across to working at sea would suit me.
What is a typical day like for a Doctor on board a cruise ship?
I enjoyed forming a routine on board, after years of shift work. Clinic happens every day on board, and – short of any emergencies – you can get a good pattern together.
What are the medical facilities like on board?
Having come from a busy Emergency Department, I was already surprised to find the cupboards stocked, the trolleys organised and the prospect of my own desk and chair was quite something!
The ship has everything you can want and need from x-rays, blood tests, cross matching, wound management. The biggest resource that I had not been able to use in the past though, was time! I had as long as I needed (within reason) to see my patients.
What is the most interesting case you have had to deal with on board?
I have too many stories to mention! In my first week, I was asked to transfer a patient into Mykonos via tender. It was really exciting at the time, and I could compare it really well with my previous week on call in MAU. I knew I’d made a sound choice at that point. There were many more exciting and interesting cases after that too!
What do you get up to when you are not on call?
My guilty pleasure was to take the opportunity on a day in port, while not on call – to utilise the facilities on board. Finishing clinic, heading for a swim or a coffee on the deck in the sun, and catch up with friends or family back home. There are often social activities on board for the crew in the evening, with something for everyone.
Are you able to get off the ship in each port?
Naturally patient care takes priority, and having had my plans for a hour on the beach swapped for a patient call, we take opportunities where we can. The medical team is a close-knit family and would almost always pull together if there was a particular place we wanted to visit.
What is your fondest memory of working on board?
I always enjoyed the sail ins, after spending five days at sea, arriving in Antigua on Boxing Day was a real treat. Again though, I have too many fond memories to reliably pick one!
I think the camaraderie is probably the most broadly positive aspect of working on board, and now have some friends for life that I really value as a result.
What was the recruitment process like for you?
I had inquired a couple of years before I applied, and made sure I had appropriate experience to be eligible. I contacted the recruitment team to book onto an open day, and was lucky enough to be through the interview process in no time at all. I was given lots of exciting information, and a contract in the weeks that followed, along with a huge box of uniform! Later that year I was cruising the Mediterranean on Queen Victoria, having left the Medical Assessment Unit just a few hours before! The team helped to work my start date around the end date of my hospital rotations, and the training team sorted out any courses that were required.
Do you have any recommendations for locums who are interested in becoming cruise ship Doctors?
I was a locum in the Emergency Department for a year, it was almost certainly the best piece of experience. On paper, applicants would need to evidence recent experience in the Emergency Department or Intensive Care Unit – and in reality the focus should be on obtaining confidence and competence in a broad cross section of clinical scenarios, through that process.
Are there progression opportunities once on board?
When I told my colleagues in the NHS I was leaving to work at sea, I was told that it was fine for a year, but to expect a dead-end thereafter. I can’t say how wrong those people were, I have had countless opportunities that have arisen from my job within the company, both internally and externally. I have been so well supported by Carnival UK, and know there are similar pathways available for nurses within the fleet.