Early July 2021 saw a couple of frantic weeks of Open Water training as ScubaQuest hosted medical students and doctors from University of Bristol. We worked alongside Faraway Medicine who had previously taken the Bristol medics over to Gozo for their scuba training. Following the cancellation of the 2020 trips due to the pandemic, Faraway decided to look a little closer to home for their 2021 “Dive Medicine” experience, and ScubaQuest was happy to step in to provide the SDI Open Water courses.
Whilst NDAC may not have quite the appeal of Gozo (for some!), the weather played ball and we had 4 great days of diving in the quarry, with morning and afternoon groups alternating between spending time in the water with ScubaQuest and in the classroom with the Faraway Medicine team. Whilst one group was diving, another was being trained in surface scenarios, learning about a wide variety of issues that a dive medic might encounter.
As part of the “Dive Medicine” programme, ScubaQuest ran over eighteen hours of pool time and executed nineteen 40+ minute dives over 6 days, with every diver having their own individual divemaster. Whilst the pace of the training was relentless, the students were enthusiastic and keen to learn, which helped us keep up the momentum and ensure they all had a great experience both in and out of the water. At the end of the fortnight, we had 15 outstanding open water divers who understood trim and buoyancy and could perform all their skills confidently and comfortably whilst in mid-water.
The Faraway teams’ emphasis on small group teaching and realistic workshops meshed well with the one-on-one dive training that ScubaQuest provided, ensuring all the students gained a huge amount of practical experience in just a few days, learning how to manage acutely ill and injured casualties in various environments. It was always interesting to emerge from the depths of the quarry to be greeted by a scene in the NDAC car park with ‘multiple casualties’, often apparently suffering from exotic animal bites and stings (not a common occurrence in Tidenham…), and to watch the students planning and undertaking casualty evacuations and treatment.
Logistically this was the biggest challenge that ScubaQuest had faced, with lots of kit and bodies to co-ordinate but as always the NDAC facility and staff made the experience a lot easier than it might otherwise have been! We have to give huge thanks to the NDAC team, especially Natty Taylor and Philip Modro for all of the logistical support – there were a LOT of cylinders to move and fill in a short time each day! On our side, Gareth Rogers was the ScubaQuest liaison for the two weeks and it was apparent Faraway really appreciated his presence (the phrase ’Absolutely Fabulous’ was used….!). He certainly appeared to have fun being poked, prodded, and made up (nothing new to him apparently…) as a simulation casualty!
Working at NDAC meant there was plenty of scope for simulation exercises, and the students even did some impromptu crossover training with the Royal Engineers and Royal Navy dive teams who were working on site! It was great to see these groups of professionals willing to work and learn from each other when the opportunity arose.
It was a pleasure to plan and to work with the Faraway Medicine team in the process of integrating dive training into the expedition medicine modules of the program over a period of months. Working with Sophie MacDougall and the rest of the Faraway team really gave us a great insight into how collaborative learning programmes like this can work ‘in the real world’, and it was fantastic to see the students benefitting from the energy and enthusiasm that everyone brought to the sessions. Sophie commented afterwards: “It really was great working with ScubaQuest, you are an outstanding organisation and we very much hope to work with you again next year”.
The list of those who pitched in and made this fantastic fortnight such a success is long, as you’d expect from the scale of the effort involved. There were several very early starts and very long days required to make it as seamless for the students as possible. Many thanks to Terry Robinson, Tracy Robinson and Rob Payne Johns (who did every session!) for sacrificing leave days and working so hard to ensure the students all had a great time.
Week one benefitted greatly from the assistance of Mark Powell (divetech and SDI/TDI) who stepped in to support us on the teaching front, which was fantastic from the student’s perspective and much appreciated by the ScubaQuest team. We look forward to welcoming back another cohort of diving doctors next year!
Congratulations to the newly qualified SDI Open Water divers:
Alice Taylor, Dan Smailes, Guy Wilmott, James Pendle, John Wright, Nils Kaufmann, Josephine Harrison, Ria Patel, Imogen Hutchings, Luke Baldock, Nick Pugh, Robin Golding, Rosie Fenton, Sarah Webb and Tom Moody.