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Old 23-08-2013, 17:32   #1
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Doctoring on the High Seas

In about a year I will finally achieve one of my life goals by becoming a doctor, but it will still be many years before I achieve another life goal and set sail around the world. I have read here and elsewhere that doctors seem to have no trouble finding work while cruising, but I'm curious as to what types of work they do? I'm not so much concerned about earning money while abroad, but I would prefer to continue practicing so that my clinical skills do not get too rusty before I return to shore and pick up where I left off.

Do doctors work at local clinics and hospitals?
Do they run clinics out of their own ships?
Do they register with local authorities or do they operate under the radar?
Do they just hang a sign while in port and take all comers on a cash basis?

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Old 23-08-2013, 18:23   #2
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Re: Doctoring on the High Seas

Hi! The answers to all of your questions is: NO! No country will allow you to practice medicine without their certification, let alone earn a living. Two options: 1) Volunteer with Doctors Without Borders (Medecins sans frontieres - fr.), or 2) Apply for a cruise ship's doctor position. The first option is filled with risks; you can get jailed or killed in third world countries who expect a godly perfection. The second option is glamorous and pays well, but you'll be dealing with whiny and gossipy patients who just need a lot of attention. Take your pick! Good luck!

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Old 23-08-2013, 18:25   #3
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If making money is not your primary objective, then there are ample volunteer opportunities in most cruising grounds...also less likely to get sideways with local officials and regulations this way.

Research the organizations you plan to work shortage of scam "volunteer" and non-profits out here in paradise.
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Old 23-08-2013, 22:42   #4
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Re: Doctoring on the High Seas

You may not be able to hang out your shingle but your services won't be refused. Most of the islands in SoPac, once you get away from the capitol, have no full time medical staff. The services of a traveling physician will be in demand. You may get paid in coconuts, but you will receive the gratitude of the locals and be adopted by everyone. You would have to bring your own pharmacy and diagnostic tools will be a stethoscope. In short, medicine as practiced in the 19th century.

There was a DO cruising when we were in French Polynesia. He wasn't looking for work but managed to stay as busy as he wanted and they never had to worry about their next meal or even preparing it.

Unsolicited, another cruising doctor stopped me on the Quai in Papeete and remarked about a small staph infection on my knee. I'd been fighting it with successive rounds of Tetracycline for the previous six months but it kept coming back. He said to treat it with a weak bleach solution which I did. The infection was gone in a couple of days never to return. Earned my gratitude.
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Old 24-08-2013, 03:49   #5
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There are huge opportunities for volunteer work anywhere you would travel. My wife and I are not medical professionals but have a decent level of emergency med training and we try to volunteer everywhere we stay for awhile. These tend to open up the most amazing experiences both good and bad and also seperate you from the tourists to create more meaningful interactions with locals.

If you are looking to "doctor" your way around the world - this would be difficult. Ironically Nurses seem to be able to do exactly this - although primarily in places that can afford decent wages...

Dont get caught out "prescribing" to your local yachties except in an emergency or you could find yourself on the wrong side of a jail door!
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Old 24-08-2013, 03:53   #6
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Re: Doctoring on the High Seas

In five years of cruising I have coordinated two evacuations from the Caribbean, one cardiac and one a necrotizing spider bite, both required weeks of treatment in the US. I have occasionally done scuba dive medicals (I am scuba medicine certified) and provided antibiotics in remote anchorages. It was just generally known I was a MD and other boats contacted me.

I would never actively practice in a jurisdiction in which I had neither a valid license or a work permit.

Join 'Doctors Without Borders.'

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Old 24-08-2013, 03:56   #7
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Re: Doctoring on the High Seas

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, mpxnpio.
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Old 24-08-2013, 17:57   #8
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pirate Re: Doctoring on the High Seas

Another option: practice in the US Navy...

Wind is cruel,
Waves come and go-
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