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Calm in a global crisis

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James McMorrow draws on his experiences in A&E to assist people in crisis around the world

Behind the buttons of his phone and the keys of his computer, James McMorrow assists those in medical crises all over the world. Each keystroke or phone call in his London office calmly relays instructions to those in medical distress or advice to those travelling to new places on medicinal precautions.

“They can be asking for what inoculations they might need if they are going to a certain country or maybe they have just been in a car accident and just need medical assistance,” he says. “It can be anything and everything. You never really know what you’re going to get.”

After working as an accident and emergency nurse for seven years, a paramedic for six and an off-shore medic for a year, Mr McMorrow is used to working in the heat of the moment, rapidly deciding the best course of action for patients by relying on instinct and training.

A few weeks ago, Mr McMorrow started a job at International SOS, a network of healthcare providers across the world that offers expertise and emergency assistance during illness, accident or civil unrest.

“One disadvantage is not being able to see the patient,” he says. “It is one thing I have had to deal with quite quickly. You have to fall back on your intuition and ask questions. Take it as it comes.”

Before his behind the scenes emergency work, Mr McMorrow worked as an off-shore medic on an oil rig in the North Sea tending to the crew for extended periods.

Isolated from convenient resources and assistance while on the rigs, he says that this experience now helps him understand what is happening on the other end of the phone.

“On the second trip, the rig I was on had a big outbreak of a norovirus. We had 15-18 guys all come down at once,” he says. “To deal with that on a rig when you have a limited amount of space and medicine was daunting. But you know that you are never alone; you have people on shore who can help and think a little more clearly.

“Now I am on the reverse side of that, I can think calmly and give the reassurance and find out what is going on.”

Mr McMorrow relies on his care and assessment skills to best help his patients on the other end of the phone.

While the roles of A&E nurse, paramedic and off shore-medic could be seen as being on the frontlines of healthcare, Mr McMorrow still considers himself to be in the middle of the action.

“International SOS is front line but in a different way,” he says. “We might have to call the patient or doctor looking after the patient. I could be speaking to anyone around the world. It’s just about moving the case forward and seeing what is best for the patient.”

Mr McMorrow says that looking after patients and the unpredictability of the calls keeps him as busy as when he worked in A&E - minus some of the stress.

“As a nurse, you are used to seeing a patient but my experiences of being in different places have complemented this job quite well,” he says. “Everything that I have been doing over the past 14 years has come together quite nicely.”

Experience and training are key to success but Mr McMorrow says that being able to adapt also helped him gain strides in nursing. He encourages all nurses to try new ventures.

“If anyone wants to strive forward, you just have to always be adaptable. It comes with trying to love everything you do,” he says.

“You have to be brave and take that step outside your comfort zone. If you are adaptable it is easily done. If you want to go for something just go for it - keep pushing yourself.”

Abigail Holman

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