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Student Careers

Prehospital care

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 01 November 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:0111420
  1. Stephen Hearns, specialist registrar in emergency medicine1,
  2. Andrew Morris, fourth year medical student2
  1. 1Western Infirmary, Glasgow
  2. 2University of Glasgow

Stephen Hearns and Andrew Morris discuss what it is, what is involved, and what opportunities there are for medical students

At some time in their professional careers most doctors will help at a prehospital incident, be it a heart attack in the city centre or a road accident on the way to work. For some, however, this forms a regular part of their practice. These doctors are mostly volunteers working over and above their NHS commitments.

While the doctor at the scene of a motorway pile up is the most visible example, prehospital care covers a wide range of activities. These range from hospital flying squads to battlefield medicine, from medical cover at mass gatherings (such as T in the Park) to mountain and ski rescue and cover at motor sport and equestrian events. Prehospital doctors may also find their services needed overseas, as part of a disaster relief effort or as an expedition medic.


Not surprisingly, for a subspecialty that deals mainly, although by no means exclusively, with trauma, it evolved from one of humanity's least attractive activities, warfare. The first organised civilian prehospital care group in Britain was established by Dr Kenneth Easton to deal with crashes …

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