What it’s like to be the only healthcare professional on an offshore oil rig

Nurse tells QNIS conference he wants to raise the profile of these ‘forgotten’ lone workers 

Nurse tells QNIS conference he wants to raise the profile of these ‘forgotten’ lone workers

Bob Gardiner
Bob Gardiner is the only healthcare professional for the 90 workers on his offshore oil rig.
Picture: Lesley Martin

It’s oil in a day’s work for a nurse who is the sole healthcare professional on a North Sea oil rig.

Bob Gardiner, who has spent the past 33 years working in the oil and gas industry and recently became a Queen’s Nurse, is making it his mission to raise awareness of the offshore staff he describes as the ‘forgotten healthcare provider’.

In his work for oil firm Taqa, Mr Gardiner has sole responsibility for primary and emergency care for 90 workers on his platform, which is 184 miles north east of Shetland.

‘No one knows about us’

He told community nurses at the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland annual conference this week that he wants to advocate for offshore health professionals and help them gain recognition.

‘No one knows anything about us,’ he said. ‘I want to be the voice and advocate [so others] can know, understand and appreciate the work of offshore medics.’

Mr Gardiner is one of 15 health professionals stationed on Taqa rigs in the North Sea area – of these 11 are registered nurses and four are military nurses.

He plans to carry out research to learn more about how many health professionals there are working on rigs on the North Sea, and their ages and backgrounds.

Medical help at least two hours away

In his career, Mr Gardiner has dealt with a wide range of incidents, from cardiac arrests to multiple deaths and a nearby helicopter crash.

Medical assistance is a minimum of two hours away by air, or sometimes days away in bad weather, he said. ‘We are the lone practitioners in a hazardous role. Sitting with someone who has had a heart attack is a huge responsibility – you are it for that person.’

Mr Gardiner holds a specialist occupational health qualification and is also responsible for all risk assessment and health and safety on board the rig.

‘My first passion is the community I work with,’ he said. ‘It’s really exciting work – every day you get up and there is some excitement.’

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