James Moore originally planned an engineering career but a family love of nursing and a desire to travel changed all that
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Dealing with injured members of a hen party all dressed as safari animals in A&E on a Saturday night may be as close as many people would like to get to nature, but it was just not good enough for James Moore.
Mr Moore has practised his clinical skills on expeditions in Africa, New Zealand and other exotic locations as an expedition medic. He’s tended to film crews, celebrities Ben Fogle and Joanna Lumley, and athletes undertaking gruelling endurance events. The nurse runs his own travel clinic Travel Health Consultancy in Exeter, and also lectures at the Royal Geographical Society and Royal College of Nursing as well as drug companies Sanofi Pasteur MSD and GSK, on travel medicine.
But Mr Moore decided to dust off his passport after working for a couple of years at a Bristol hospital. He practised in New Zealand and trained with Wilderness Medical Training (and still does) and learnt how vital clinical skills could be in expedition and survival situations.
Returning to the UK in 2001, he wanted to be his own boss and was determined to set up his own travel clinic in Exeter, dispensing anti-malarials and vaccinations, while giving advice on how to survive travel illnesses.
“I teach how to take a medical history, insert a cannula and intravenous and intramuscular drugs, hang up a drip, and straighten and splint limbs,” he says.
The clinic has been helped by the increase in travellers - Mr Moore sees everyone from babies holidaying with parents, to 80 year olds off to Egypt or Africa.
“My goal when setting up my clinic was to offer travellers advice on travel medicine from someone who has trained at postgraduate level but also who has travelled to these places,” he says.
And he’s travelled to all kinds of places. “My mantra to expedition medics is that if you do your job well enough and prepare for what may happen, you won’t have anything to do on the trip. I recently did a television show where I dressed a few blisters and put up one drip. I spent the rest of the time with the film crew learning about the shoot.”
Not that they are always stress free: Mr Moore once spent 9.5 hours carrying a girl on a stretcher after she was bitten by a snake in Borneo.
Nurses going off on an expedition need to have personal, clinical and expedition skills in equal measure. You need to be able to defuse a situation with an angry crew or be able to muck in and help people rig up a camera, start a fire or cook dinner.
“The best thing about the job is the excitement. But it’s also an awful lot of responsibility. When it goes wrong, it can be high profile, and if you make a mistake it’s potentially trial by media. During the Brazil marathon, one patient just started fitting and we had to evacuate him through the jungle rivers at night. You have to take that responsibility seriously.”
It’s lucky he enjoys the work because frequently it doesn’t pay. “With some expeditions you get costs covered, some they pay expenses and some they pay you. How much you are paid depends on your experience and if you have travelled to these places before.”
Despite huge responsibility and low pay, Mr Moore says it’s definitely the career for him. “My dad was a mechanic until he was about 40, then retrained as a nurse. When I was considering going to uni to study engineering, he made me think about nursing. I’m glad he did.
“I went to Sri Lanka after the tsunami and before Christmas I was walking with rhinos in Uganda and met villagers in parts of Sudan that are so dangerous tourists don’t usually to get to see them. I can think of no other career where you can travel anywhere in the world and use your skills.”
His job may be to ensure people don’t catch the travel bug, but Moore’s passion for travel is pretty infectious.
'If you make a mistake it’s potentially trial by media'