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Maritime health care
  1. J Putnam
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Putnam
 Maridocs, Des Moines, WA 98198, USA;

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The delivery of health care to seafarers is described

Maritime medicine refers to providing medical care for seafarers1 including the people working in the merchant marine, the commercial fishing fleets, offshore oil platforms, and the cruise ship industry, the segment best known to most of us. It also includes provision of care through shore based pre-employment and seafarer consultation clinics. These various maritime medical practices present very different alternatives to the clinics, emergency rooms, and hospital environments where most of us practice. They may provide a working vacation (often emphasis on “work”), a few months sabbatical, or a career.

Practicing medicine at sea incorporates many aspects of “wilderness medicine.” Dr Warren Bowman’s editorial in Wilderness Medicine,2 “Perspectives on being a wilderness physician” describes wilderness medicine as medical care delivery in situations where “definitive medical care may be hours or days away because of distance, adverse environmental conditions, lack of transportation, or difficulties in communication.” This definition applies to work in parks, forests, and other designated wilderness areas, but is equally applicable in other environments including Antarctic research stations, remote clinics in developed countries, healthcare facilities in many “third world” countries, rural or urban locales after natural disasters, and in most of the cruise industry.

Cruise medicine provides the challenges and rewards of practicing medicine in a resource limited environment while providing the opportunity to travel to interesting, sometimes very remote, places and to meet people also intrigued by international travel …

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  • Competing interests: I have worked for or consulted for Semester at Sea/Institute for Shipboard Education, World Explorer Cruises, Cruise West, and Lindblad Expeditions. I have presented at Wilderness Medical Society and SAILS conferences on the subject of Maritime Health.

    Is maritime health care a simple transfer of our normal primary care and emergency room practices to a ship? Or is there something unique about providing health care at sea, separate from the obvious opportunity it presents for travel?