Maritime doctors’ skills and competencies: A review for policy analysis
Maritime medicine deals with the health of seafarers, fishermen, and offshore employees and, more specifically, with their employment, working and living conditions, and their health and safety at sea. Maritime doctors should have the appropriate training and competencies to provide the equivalent service as would be found on land. This review discusses a) the required skills and competencies of maritime doctors and b) explores the associated ongoing discussions for the establishment of a global accredited Masters programme in maritime health. A literature review was conducted using two databases: PubMed and Google scholar. Search terms included: maritime doctors, maritime medicine, occupational health, and skills and competencies. Literature published between 1990 and 2018 was prioritised. Thirty-five articles that discussed the skills, competencies, and education of maritime doctors and health professionals were retrieved, reviewed, and discussed, plus eight reports and documents from relevant International Organisations webpages. We explored policies in relation to training using i) the health triangle and ii) the Kingdon model. Doctors who serve in the sector should have extensive knowledge about medical practice, but also about the environment of seafaring. The complexity of their roles, coupled with the provision of a high quality of services in global shipping, call for high quality accredited training and harmonisation of maritime health practices. The analysis of policy, using two policy models, showed that a window of opportunity appears to be in favour of a policy regarding the recognition of maritime medicine as a medical specialisation. International stakeholders, together with the International Maritime Health Association, should actively advocate such a perspective which will be in favour of seafarers, who will enjoy better health and wellbeing, with higher income while avoiding ill-health, as well as the shipping industry, which will employ satisfied and loyal employees, and will enjoy a higher reputation.
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