Medics essential on the open seas

This article has photo gallery Published on WO2 Andrew Hetherington (author), ABIS Richard Cordell (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation MANITOU, HMAS Perth (F157)

Petty Officer Medical Samone Black in the sickbay onboard HMAS Perth. (photo: ABIS Richard Cordell)
Petty Officer Medical Samone Black in the sickbay onboard HMAS Perth.

A medic is an essential sailor on a Navy ship heading out on an operational deployment. There is no floating hospital in the middle of an ocean to assist sailors, nor is there an ambulance. There is only a helicopter to take people back to land.

For HMAS Perth, recently returned from Operation MANITOU, Petty Officer Medical Samone Black was the ship’s senior medic working with a doctor and junior medic providing support to the ship’s company of about 190. 

Petty Officer Black originally wanted to join the Army.
“Navy was the first service to take me, as the Army was not taking medics at the time,” she said.
“I’ve been on Perth since December last year and this was my first operational deployment with the ship.
“Before I came to Perth, I was a medic with one of Navy’s clearance diving teams at HMAS Waterhen.”
To work with a clearance diving team as a medic, Petty Officer Black underwent specialist medical training.
“I completed a nine-month underwater medicine course, which taught me how water pressure affects the body, and the course contained a lot of biology and physics,” she said.
“I really enjoyed the course and the job. After I finished with the dive team, I went on to complete a 12-month medical clinical manager course before I came to Perth.”
On Perth Petty Officer Black is the clinical manager for the sickbay.
“I run sick parade with the doctor and the medic, and deal with medical cases when they arise,” she said.
“Our sickbay consists of a treatment room, a small ward and an office.”
At sea Petty Officer Black’s roles differ greatly from when on land.
“At home I’m a medical administrator at the health centre,” she said.
On board the ship, apart from performing her duties as a medic, she deals with medical administration and governance, looks after the pharmacy and occasionally acts as a guidance counsellor.
Petty Officer Black plans to make Navy her long-term career.
“I’m considering studying medicine to become a doctor in the Navy,” she said.
“I’ll be able to study at university, while still being paid by Navy.”