Courses — 30 July 2023 at 9:38 am

Medical Care on Offshore and Inland Waters Course (MCOIW), University of Tasmania: Course review.

Dr Liv Grover-Johnson / Polar Medicine Unit, Australian Antarctic Division / Casey Research Station, East Antarctica

Dr Liv Grover-Johnson reviews the the Medical Care on Offshore and Inland Waters (MCOIW) course. This course is one of the newest offerings by the Healthcare in Remote and Extreme Environments (HREE) program at the University of Tasmania (UTAS). Candidates learn about search and rescue, medical care at sea, basic navigation and more. MCOIW is a supercharged version of HREE’s highly engaging Expedition Medicine course. It is currently the only maritime medicine for healthcare professionals available in Australia. And it’s on a boat.

Key Facts

What: An eight day intensive medical course, including three nights aboard a wooden tall ship, “The Lady Nelson”.

When: Typically the course runs once per year, in November. This is an eight day course.

Where: Hobart, Tasmania.

The first four days are at the UTAS Medical Precinct in Hobart. For the rest of the course you are aboard the “The Lady Nelson”, in the coastal waters and harbours in Southern Tasmania, .

Cost: Health Professionals: AU$5,990. (Reduced to AU$5,434 if completing it as part of the Graduation Certificate or Diploma in Healthcare in Remote and Extreme Environment). There is one free place per course for UTAS medical elective students. UTAS students should contact the elective director or the head of their clinical school for further advice.

Costs include a course manual, pre-course education, morning coffee and lunch during the course days, and all meals and accommodation whilst aboard “The Lady Nelson” (three nights).

Costs do not include travel to and from Hobart, accommodation whilst in Hobart, or mandatory equipment. It is possible to borrow or hire some gear for the duration of the course if you do not have them.

For Australian citizens or permanent residents, you can apply for fees support.

End Qualification:

  • Certificate of completion (Note that this is the only maritime medicine course for health professionals in Australasia).
  • Credit towards the HREE Graduate Certificate/Diploma/Masters. There is an additional 3000 word assignment to submit if you want to complete the unit and not just the short course.
  • CPD points accredited by the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, and also by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

Delegates: Maximum 20

All health care professionals are welcome including nurses, paramedics and doctors. Outdoor educators guides and enthusiasts are also welcome to join the short course and often do.

Prerequisite Specific Skills:

  • 10 to 15 hours of pre-reading and coursework, accessed online at no additional cost (
  • Swimming: must be able to safely swim 200m fully-clothed
  • Preparation and purchase or sourcing of essential gear and equipment

The Course

MCOIW is one of the newest offerings by the Healthcare in Remote and Extreme Environments (HREE) program at the University of Tasmania (UTAS). It is a supercharged version of their highly engaging Expedition Medicine course. On a boat. 

MCOIW is the only course of its kind in Australasia. It teaches medical skills and an array of practical skills relevant to medical care at sea or on the water. It can be completed as a stand-alone course or as part of one of HREE’s certificate or diploma programs. 

The course covers:

  • Approaches to the provision of emergency and primary medical care on board a vessel
  • Designing medical kits, risk assessments and disaster and evacuation plans 
  • Provision of topside support appropriate to a wide range of maritime and inland water settings 
  • Basic navigation and meteorology
  • Emergency and survival procedures at sea, including practical search and rescue (SAR), patient assessment and extrication exercises, and swift water safety and rescue
  • International and Australian regulations covering the maritime industry
  • Short range radio operators course & licence

The Instructors

Instruction is provided by doctors, nurses and paramedics with significant experience in expedition and wilderness medicine. They have worked across a variety of settings including polar expedition yachts, ocean racing, cruise ships and maritime refugee assistance missions. 

The course draws on the incredibly valuable knowledge and skills of non-healthcare professionals. They have extensive experience with remote expeditions, maritime search and rescue, nautical navigation and communications, ocean sailing and racing.

General Review

This is the most fun I have had on a medical course.

Hobart feels like the last city at the edge of the world. It squeezes itself into a spectacular location beneath Kunanyi (1,271m), and the shores of the Derwent River and Storm Bay. To the west of Kunanyi is the vast protected wilderness of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. Being one of the Antarctic Gateway cities, you may be lucky enough to see some of the Antarctic-bound research vessels docked at the wharfs in town. You might even see one heading out on a journey into the Southern Ocean and down to the ice.

“The Lady Nelson”, a wooden tall-ship, becomes the class-room for four days of the course, exploring the coastline, islands and harbours around Hobart and to the South. Whilst on-board you share all accommodation and meals with other delegates and faculty, just as on a real expedition. During the course your mandatory clothing, equipment and safety kit are assessed. These are things you actually need during your time at sea – so it is a good chance to test and refine your gear.

The opportunity to sail aboard “The Lady Nelson” enables the MCOIW course to get us outside of the four-walls of our normal healthcare settings, and open our minds to the  creativity, resourcefulness and innovation required in the expedition setting – especially at sea. Many aspects of this course are integrated into practical scenarios that resemble the complexities of real life. They demand real teamwork, real radio communication, real planning… you don’t get this opportunity anywhere else.

Extra benefits

  • Networking – the people who choose to do a course like this one are invariably wonderful, interesting, bold and adventurous types. You will find a great network of friends and colleagues who think just like you do. It may well lead to opportunities in other weird and wonderful corners of the world.
  • VHF Radio Licence: Short Range Operators Certificate of Proficiency (SROCP) 

Overall Verdict

If you are looking to take your healthcare skills outside the four walls of the hospital and onto the lakes, rivers and oceans, then this course is one you want to do.

Definitely pay attention to the assessed items on the mandatory “gear and equipment list”. Indeed I would strongly recommend aiming for top marks. If you neglect this you will still learn the lesson, but it will be the hard way and you will regret your half-hearted job!

Useful Links

Course flyer:

Course Website: