This article was written by Sid Lipsey and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel.
Being a cruise ship doctor may seem like the medical profession's dream gig—and in a lot of ways it is. But the job comes with an incredible amount of responsibility: you see everything from sprained ankles to potentially deadly heart attacks. You're responsible for the lives of thousands of passengers and crew. And for many people, having a great vacation means never, ever seeing you.
It's a job Dr. John Bradberry knows well. A double board-certified emergency medicine and family medicine physician, Bradberry spent seven years as a ship doctor for a major cruise line and another seven years as that cruise line's medical director. Long story short, he's seen just about all there is to see at sea. Here, Dr. Bradberry shares what it's like to be a real-life ship's "Doc."
We really are doctors—and good ones—despite what some people might think
Passengers think the medical center on board a ship is maybe a Band-Aid station. In a passenger area or in an elevator, a passenger would look at my nametag [which says] "Ship's Physician." And it's like, "So what do you do? Treat a lot of seasickness? Ha ha!" And it's not the case. Credentialing guidelines for cruise ship doctors require extensive experience and expertise in primary care, including emergency medicine.
We work hard, but we also get to enjoy the benefits of cruising
Any doctor who anticipates that the practice of cruise ship medicine is tantamount to a paid vacation is going to be sorely disappointed. Cruise ship doctors have an immense amount of responsibility on their shoulders. That cruise ship doctor is responsible for the health and well-being and lives of 5,000 people; that's a small town. A physician must be on call 24 hours a day whenever the ship is at sea. So it's not a paid vacation by any means.
There is time off, though. And during the time-off periods, the ship's doctors can go up to the main deck where a lot of the activities are and intermingle with the guests. If the ship is in port and the doctor's off-duty, they're allowed to go shoreside and go exploring, go to the beach, go on shoreside excursions. All expenses paid travel, and you get a salary on top of it. Free room and board is included. In some ways, the ship's doctors get paid to do what the passengers are paying to come and do.
Yes, it's like "The Love Boat"—kinda
There are a lot of romances... among the crew. You have a thousand mostly young adult crewmembers living, working, and socializing together, and human nature will take its course.
In true "Love Boat" fashion, I met my wife on board. She was one of the ship's nurses. She's half-British, half-Greek, tall, black hair and big sparkling blue eyes. And I just happened to be in the medical center when she walked in. And when she spoke, she had that British accent. Within 8 to 10 seconds of laying eyes on her, I thought, "This might get complicated." So we're now married with two kids; I think that qualifies as a "complicated."
Despite "Doc's" womanizing on "The Love Boat," there's no hanky-panky between real-life cruise ship doctors and passengers
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