Life as a dive doctor at DDRC
Here at DDRC our main role is offering advice and treatment to divers in emergency situations. We host the British Hyperbaric Associate emergency line 24/7, covering the whole of England and Wales. When a diver rings we will either offer advice over the phone, bring them in for treatment or redirect them to their nearest hyperbaric chamber. Sometimes we liaise directly with hospital doctors or the emergency services (e.g. coastguard).
If a diver has decompression illness we will treat them in our hyperbaric chamber; the duration of treatment will vary depending on symptom severity and type of DCI. A doctor will be present for the duration of treatment to make sure the patient is stable and to organise further medical treatment if needed. Treatment of divers, as you’d expect, is seasonal with higher numbers of calls in the summer months.
Another one of our key roles is assessing divers’ fitness to dive. For recreational divers we have weekly telephone consultation appointments; some divers can be signed off remotely whereas others will need to come in for a Sports Diver Medical. This consists of an examination, spirometry and discussion about their specific medical issues. These medicals run alongside our HSE medicals which assess commercial divers to see if they are fit for their specific job role.
DDRC also runs hyperbaric oxygen treatment for elective patients. These treatments are for specific indications for which there is good evidence that hyperbaric oxygen will be effective. Some examples include diabetic foot ulcers, slow healing wounds, osteoradionecrosis and radiation cystitis. These patients are referred in by their specialist consultant, we bring them in for assessment and they have daily treatments in the chamber.
Aside from these main responsibilities, we also get involved in teaching on medical courses, research projects and public education.
Dive medicine is a very niche specialty and our doctors come from a variety of backgrounds including GP, anaesthetics/ACCS and hospital medicine. The main thing that connects us all is a passion for diving!