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Event medicine: could you provide medical care in constantly changing environments?

An emergency care practitioner explains the appeal of providing care at big events

An emergency care practitioner explains the appeal of providing care at big events and how the COVID-19 pandemic made most work disappear overnight

Uncertainty has been a commonly used word over the past 12 months with all things COVID-19, and that has undoubtedly been the case for all of us who work in event medicine.

The event industry is huge. But in a matter of matter of weeks at the start of the pandemic, work for event medics all but dried up: production companies cancelled their stadium tours, filming schedules were shelved and turnstiles at sporting venues were locked shut.

Without live music shows, television productions, the summer outdoor festival season and the many tiers and fields of competitive sport, the work was simply not

An emergency care practitioner explains the appeal of providing care at big events and how the COVID-19 pandemic made most work disappear overnight

Event medicine covers a number of entertainments including live music shows
Picture: iStock

‘Uncertainty’ has been a commonly used word over the past 12 months with all things COVID-19, and that has undoubtedly been the case for all of us who work in event medicine.

The event industry is huge. But in a matter of matter of weeks at the start of the pandemic, work for event medics all but dried up: production companies cancelled their stadium tours, filming schedules were shelved and turnstiles at sporting venues were locked shut.

Without live music shows, television productions, the summer outdoor festival season and the many tiers and fields of competitive sport, the work was simply not there.

Event medicine can be unpredictable and the hours are long

My career in event medicine happened by accident: after being invited by a colleague to an event, I got to see behind the scenes and I was hooked. As they say, the rest is history.

As a nurse practitioner in emergency care, I was comfortable with the unpredictability of the work. Event medicine isn’t always glamourous and the hours are long: I have spent many a wet January night stood under the floodlights of a sports stadium, and travelled hundreds of miles to reach a venue.

Standing on the moors with a film crew on a location shoot at midnight is a beautiful thing, but finding your way home frozen at 2am to snatch some sleep ahead of a 12-hour shift in a completely different location? Not so much.

NHS return to support colleagues during first wave of pandemic

So what is the appeal? Primarily, the challenge of providing medical care in constantly changing environments. I have dealt with a cardiac arrest in a crowd of 16,000 people, advised on-tour music artists on their medication regimens in place of their family GP, given wound care to a stunt artist who hit a car window, and supported young children separated from their parents at beach festivals.

When the vast majority of this work disappeared in March 2020, I like many of my event medicine colleagues returned to the NHS to support clinical colleagues in the first wave of the pandemic.

I worked in education for nine months, as there was a huge push to upskill the NHS workforce in roles they had not undertaken before, or to move to specialties they were not familiar with.

I embraced this, and my decade of working in event medicine and the ability to adapt, be flexible and work with different people each day proved invaluable when returning to the NHS.

COVID-19 vaccine passports could facilitate return of fans to large events

In recent months some of my usual work has re-emerged, with sporting events taking place behind closed doors and television and film companies filming again amid tight restrictions.

There is some cautious optimism that we may be edging back to a new normal in the future, with some music acts advertising 2021 concert dates. Although some larger musical festivals have cancelled their 2021 plans, others are working hard behind the scenes, liaising with public health officials and seeking ways to ensure safety for festivalgoers in the summer.

During the COVID-19 pandemic work in event medicine has dried up, as production companies cancelled their stadium tours and turnstiles at sporting venues were locked shut
Picture: Alamy

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has confirmed the government is considering COVID-19 vaccine passports to facilitate the return of fans to large events, while the #WeMakeEvents movement is also seeking to re-energise the events industry. It is a balancing act. Safety must come first, but there are signs of progress.

Hope for a gradual return to event medicine from the summer

A colleague recently posted on social media that she had been working on a film set, fulfilling the role of ‘COVID-19 supervisor’ for the production, a job title none of us could have imagined 12 months ago. But these are only small green shoots of optimism for the industry as a whole, as we continue to live, work and adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions which are necessary at present.

What of the future, and the pathways that will lead us back to the pre-COVID normal that we all once knew? Such an outcome appears to rest on the mass vaccination programme which has been rolled out by the NHS with great success, a process that will take many more months to work through and continue to involve many clinicians to execute.

For the foreseeable future I will continue working at my local vaccination centre, with the anticipation that maybe come summer I will see the opportunities to return to event medicine slowly start to grow.

Tips for getting into event medicine

  • Experience of working in emergency/urgent care settings is an advantage
  • You need to be adaptable, flexible and have the ability to work independently
  • The role will involve UK and possibly international travel
  • Be aware that you may have to finance your own medical kit and will need professional indemnity insurance


Find out more

#WeMakeEvents

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