Expert care outside the box

Posted on 28 May 2019

To be part of the Mediclinic Corporate Events team, nurses must have a mix of experience and clinical competency – but most of all, an adventurous spirit.

“Hospitals are clinical, predictable and structured. There is a familiarity about that space. In events, things change constantly. You need a sense of adventure.” – PN Caroline Murray, Clinical Logistics Coordinator: Mediclinic Southern Africa

Murray has been with the Mediclinic Corporate Events department on a permanent basis since 2011, and explains that no two events are the same. On average, the department oversees medical assistance and logistics at about 20 mass participation, extreme sports events across South Africa each year. “These are what we call our Class A events,” she explains. “ER24 provides support at a far larger number of sports events across SA, that require a different mix of skills – but for the Class A events, we bring the full Mediclinic field hospital experience.”

The three biggest events that Mediclinic covers are the IAAF Gold Label Sanlam Cape Town Marathon, the 104km Cape Town Cycle Tour and the extreme multi-stage mountain biking race, the Absa Cape Epic. For these, Mediclinic provides a 22-bed field hospital, four of which are intensive care-equipped.

The teams on standby vary, according to the types of sports and the range of expected injuries: “For the Cycle Tour and Cape Town Marathon, we find there is a large turnover in patients and we usually supply 20 nurses and 10 doctors to provide for that. At the Epic while the field is smaller, we see a greater range of injuries and a higher attrition rate, so we need eight nurses and eight doctors on hand.”

Murray explains that nurses and doctors assigned to the Epic do a lot of their work in the field. As injuries occur, riders will be transported back to the field hospital and accompanied by the relevant medical  professional.

To provide for such a variety of injuries, the nurses in the events team must have certain capabilities. “We usually have at least one nurse who is active in intensive care, per event. For the big ones, we have two,” says Murray. “For this reason, we want them to be experienced in the specialised treatment given to patients who are acutely sick or injured and who require critical medical care.”

The rest of the nursing team must have experience working in the Emergency Centre. “We find these nurses are ideal in the events environment because they are involved in providing patients with first-line treatments for a range of illnesses and traumatic injuries, on a daily basis.”

Enrolled nurses are also in demand in the events team, and Murray says these professionals play a vital role in triage. “When patients come into the field hospital, these nurses help determine the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition.”

Murray emphasises that anyone with the right qualifications and experience may apply to work in the Mediclinic events team. “We like nurses with ICU and EC experience, of course, but many of our nurses work in general wards too. What makes them suited to the events space? They have the right attitude and willingness to work as a team.”

Attitude plays a huge role in events, says Murray. “In my experience, I’ve very rarely had to go out to hospitals to find nurses who are willing to help provide medical assistance at Mediclinic events. The right people always approach us. They see what we do here, and they find this kind of work attractive.”

Sports events regularly take nurses outside of their comfort zone, says Murray. “A lot of the time, we are out in the middle of nowhere: remote locations, in the middle of the mountains, sleeping on stretchers, for days at a time. Make no mistake, we provide the very best medical assistance and we are very proud of our level of clinical care. But we are not working in a hospital. I think a nurse knows if they are suited to events from the moment he or she walks into a tent with grass under their feet.”

Equipment itself is often more robust than a nurse may expect. For example, the Mediclinic events team makes use of an inflatable dinghy as a makeshift ice bath, for patients who require urgent cooling down. “It is highly effective, as it can be packed up and inflated on the go, and it is large enough to fit a single patient,” she says. “Still, it’s not quite what nurses may be used to. In many respects, working in events requires a mind shift, and the nurses who excel here are the ones who enjoy the adventure and return for the camaraderie of the team.”

The environment is also subject to change. “Day by day, it may be hot, cold, dusty, humid – as the weather changes, so do our comfort levels. Flexibility is vital. We must adapt quickly. I think the best nurse in this space is one who sees and understands that we have challenges, and who is motivated to overcome those: to provide the right kind of care, no matter how difficult that may be, for the sake of our patients.”

To see the Mediclinic Corporate Events team in action what this video that goes behind-the-scenes at the Discovery Triathlon World Cup…


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