McMurdo General Hospital

McMurdo General Hospital

On the way to visit McMurdo General Hospital this morning, I noticed a few more signs of holiday spirit around town. We now have wooden decorations on some of our poles in town.  I got a kick out of seeing a fake Santa riding on the top of a tanker truck.  It’s certainly not like we see Santa at the local mall around here.  We have to take what we can get!

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The medical clinic is right across from the galley building (where we eat, store, barber shop, offices, rec center, etc.) and it’s also next door to the fire station.  It’s in the heart of the main part of town and centrally located.

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Yes, even the medical center revolves around a penguin theme!  I like this sign!

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I had to stop in at the main desk of the medical center to sign in.  Yes, this was an official visit.  I have not felt 100% for a few days, and wanted to get checked out.  I waited only a short time before I was taken back to an examination area.  The medical clinic is open each morning for walk-in patients (what I was today) and they have afternoon appointment hours. This facility houses doctors, nurses, lab technicians, a physical therapist, the dentist for McMurdo Station, a pharmacy technician, orthopedic supplies like ace bandages and crutches, and has x-ray capability (and maybe more that I missed).

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As I sat on my exam bed/table, this was the view I had.  This hospital/medical center is well-equipped even if the furniture has a 1960’s feel to it.  All of the supplies and machines are updated regularly, but the look of this medical center was like I stepped back in time.

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Even the curtain had a penguin focus!  Love it!

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Wow, lime green cabinets…how retro!  You can see that this facility is both well-kept and well-equipped though.  I felt that the staff at McMurdo General was top notch! Everyone was super friendly!

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The first person I met was Randy.  She’s in the Air Force and is one of two military staff currently operating out of McMurdo Station as a flight medic and nurse.  She’s currently on a 45-day rotation, stationed here at McMurdo, sort of “on loan” from her station in Okinawa, Japan.

Other military personnel are also working in the medical center, and there is a mix of civilian and military staff members.  In total there are 5 providers, including three doctors, one physician’s assistant and one nurse practitioner.  The two nurses on staff are both flight qualified, which means they can pick up people from field camps and bring them back to McMurdo for treatment, and also accompany patients on medivac or medical leave flights back to Christchurch, New Zealand.

Randy took my blood pressure and heart rate, and she noted my symptoms for the doctor.

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Physician’s assistant, Melinda (who I had met at Happy Camper school) was the person who provided my overall care today.  We laughed at how different we looked without all of our ECW gear on and 51 mph winds blowing us around!  Melinda’s from Georgia but says she loves to travel around and work in different places.  Her dad was in the military, and they moved a lot when she was younger.  She’s licensed in three states and this is her first season on the ice.

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I had blood drawn and tests were run while I waited. Micki, the lab technician on duty is spending her second season on the ice.  She’s from Minnesota.  It never ceases to amaze me when it comes to the variety of backgrounds and number of states that people down here come from.

Everything in the blood tests and other tests checked out fine, and I was given some medications to take with me.  Joyce, in the photo below) is the pharmacy tech on station. I met her at Happy Camper school as well. She’s from Ohio and this is her second season in McMurdo.  She came down last year for three and a half weeks, but this season she can down at Winfly (winter fly-in) in August and will stay until the middle of February.

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The last person I met was the dentist, Bob.  Actually I had met him before…he was our Delta shuttle driver to/from Happy Camper school.  You know, a lot of people “wear many hats” around the station.  The person who makes your cupcakes might also drive a shuttle, and the guy who gives you your pressure ridge tour might also volunteer at the radio station and have another job full-time.  Everyone contributes to station life in different and multiple ways. It’s one of the cool things about meeting people here.  They all have talents and enthusiasm.  Here’s Bob’s story…

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Bob has a small dental practice in Colorado Springs.  He (and his wife and family) have traveled a great deal and Bob has worked as a volunteer doing dental work in St. Petersburg (Russia), Nepal, China, Siberia, Barcelona, and more!  He loves to combine travel and work.

When I asked him about how this affects his practice, he had a very upbeat response; even though he’s away from his practice it can have a positive outcome.  He refers his patients to other local dentists in his absence and when he returns he has many stories and experiences to share.  He is enthusiastic and welcoming and I feel that these varied experiences would bring a lot to his practice!  He loves the people in McMurdo and says that what he enjoys is that they are well-traveled and interesting.  I’d have to agree, and Bob is the perfect example!

So, a negative (not feeling well) turned into a positive today.  I met some awesome people and now I’m feeling better as well.

17 responses to “McMurdo General Hospital

  1. I have a general question, what time of year are there the largest number of people in Antarctica? And about how many people would be there then?

    • The time of year when the Antarctic “population” booms is in the summer season…between October and February. At that time over 1,000 people might be in McMurdo at any given time. Right now the population is down to about 978 people…another group left today. The population is about 75% male and 25 % female at the station. South Pole Station has fewer people…I believe a couple hundred in the summer and sometimes only 50 or so in the winter months. By March the “summer” season employees are gone and the “winter-overs” are here until August without any new planes coming in or going back to New Zealand. It must be strange when that last plane leaves for the season. xx Mom P.S. Just felt our daily blast from the ice pier! WOW!

  2. I love reading about the hospital staff. It’s pretty fascinating how medical staff from all over come and work on the ice. I can’t imagine what working in that type of facility and environment is like. At least they seem to be a pretty well-stocked facility! Glad to hear that you are feeling better!

    • Hey Cassie…I knew you’d like the medical center post, since you are a nurse! 🙂 I thought the care there was excellent and now it’s nice to see those friends around town! Talk with you soon! xo Love, Betty

    • Hi Jack,
      I’ve met so many great people who do many different types of jobs here, including the scientists. Tonight I met a man who studies marine chemistry and geochemistry at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. That’s not far from our house on Cape Cod. I’ve met people who work in the kitchen, teach snowmobile safety, repair trucks and other vehicles, and so many more jobs I can’t even name them all here! This is a working community of very interesting people. The one thing we don’t have here is KIDS! I miss the kids of Husmann Elementary School. Keep on staying in touch!

    • Hi Wendy,
      I’ll be a happy camper when we get together in February! Happy, Happy Holidays and stay in touch! xo Boop

    • Hello to my Delta Kappa Gamma sister! I hope others in our group will follow my blogs as well. Great to hear from you, Gay!

  3. I am a radiography technologist. My focus has been Cardiac ie: cath, EP and interventional radiography. I have experience in CT, US General X-ray. I worked in AK in Fairbanks twice and am interested in Antarctica. How would I apply for a job in McMurdo?

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