Becoming a ship doctor involves working with a team of health care professionals to provide routine and emergent medical care during voyages. As a cruise ship medical doctor the passengers and crew are cared for on an outpatient clinical basis for small injuries and illnesses. Emergency care is provided any time, day or night. Experience and sound decisions in responding are necessary. There are a number of potential medical needs that arise.

Step 1

Receive a medical degree with specialties in emergency and family medicines. Work in areas of trauma and critical care in hospitals for one to three years to gain the experience needed to become a ship doctor. Experience in field work is vital; most cruise ships have at least two nurses and two doctors on duty that can rotate on-call.

Step 2

Maintain an Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certificate and General Medical Council (GMC ) registration, which is required for several countries. Background history and education investigation will be thorough. Several references and documents, many regarding immunizations and citizenship must be supplied.

Step 3

Speak fluent English, this is the most common language and also a requirement. You will be treating patients from several nationalities and cultures. Knowing more than one language is advantageous, however, translators are available for assistance in interpreting.

Step 4

Start as an “as needed” or PRN cruise ship medical doctor before taking on a full-time position. This may be two months at sea in a 12-month period, options vary with each cruise line. Several ships hire temporary physicians for weeks at a time, this is a good way to see if it is a career that has potential for you. Several months away from home with a stressful job is not for everyone. The benefits are worth it to some who wish to travel to many countries and cultures around the world.

Step 5

Work in medical facilities that comply with the Cruise Lines International Association guidelines. Physicians conform to all American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) standards in practice. A ship infirmary is equipped with critical care state-of-the-art equipment and diagnostic facilities. This is just like a small medical center, emergency room; there are teleconference and communication equipment for consultations with global specialty physicians.

Step 6

Explore available job opportunities online or in medical journals.