Maritime doctors play an important role in health outcomes of the seagoing personnel but due to the complexity of their role and the scientific advancements there is a need for continuous training so that they stay current and better respond to this population group specific needs and expectations. In comparison with the other neighbour countries and particularly Norway, Spain and the Netherlands, Denmark lacks a specific training programme in maritime medicine for medical doctors. The project idea is to gain insights of the breadth and kind of services that maritime doctors offer and the respective quality of these services. In line of this, the education and training of health professionals is an essential factor in the development of health systems. Education and training contribute to better responsiveness and performance of the health professionals and lead to optimization of the services (Regnier et al. 2005, Overstreet et al. 2006). Well-trained professionals provide quality services that meet the expectations and demands of the population and contribute to patient safety. Continuing education programmes enable physicians to improve patient centred care also by educating them on health prevention related to the chronic diseases, like hypertension, diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases. In addition, the doctors strengthen their skills to provide the patients with guidelines for modification of their behavioural choices and the self-management of their illness (Andrioti et al. 2015).
The prospects emanating from the study is that it puts Denmark in the front line as a pioneer country
conducting research in the field of maritime doctors training needs in line with the ILO/IMO guidelines on
the medical examinations of seafarers, providing the opportunity to benchmark the situation in Denmark and
allow for international comparison on doctors’ perceived training needs in other countries.
The results of this survey showed that there is a clear need for establishing adequate training in specific
subjects, like for example the MLC 2006 convention and that the training should be tailored to doctors’ needs
and high work burden.
As a further step this survey could support the planning of targeted training on maritime medicine. Such
training should be offered in cooperation with all the stakeholders and the medical associations. It should be
flexible, licenced and linked to continuous professional development of medical doctors.
A Gap analysis of the Maritime doctors’ service profile compared to General Practitioners
The final report submitted to the Danish Maritime Fund and the stakeholders. The survey took place in 2017-2018, addressed all maritime doctors in the country (110) and a similar number of GPs, with an aim at exploring the services offered to seagoing professionals, as well as potential training needs on aspects of maritime medicine.
Some of the main findings showed that the seagoing professionals usually return to the maritime doctor for their health concerns. Maritime doctors, deal more with vaccinations, diagnosis, follow-up, and communication with authorities, while family doctors deal more with general health promotion and patient education.
Both GPs with and without designation as maritime doctors, are in favour of continuous professional development. Maritime doctors highlighted the need for the establishment of an accredited and flexible training course in Denmark, “informative” in maritime, off shore and diving medicine, provided by experienced instructors in the field. The three training areas reported important were: “Fitness Evaluation and Medical Examination Guidelines” followed by “Rules and regulations within Maritime Medicine” and “Working conditions and health risks on board”. Highly relevant topics included legal aspects and rejected cases.
Additional suggestions highlighted the establishment of a website as “one stop-shop” with relevant guidelines and information, as well as the establishment of an Advisory Board for consultation in grey cases.
The survey results of the GPs showed that maritime workers were not regarded as an especially risky occupational group. Most of them have very few maritime professionals on their lists. However, GPs, were interested in learning more about occupational risks, diseases and follow-up practices targeting high-risk professions.
It is the first time that research investigated this field with suggestions to authorities on quality improvements for services provided to the seagoing employees.