NEIL WILLIAMS, 41, from Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, works as an offshore medic treating the illnesses, injuries and accidents of people working on oil rigs, offshore wind farms and gas pipelines across the world.

I AM registered with the offshore recruitment agency Seatechs which can have as many as 120 people working at any one time – the majority from the North-East.

My work has taken me all over the world, from freezing conditions in the Arctic to the balmy climes of Brazil.

Tell us about what you do?

The job I do is almost like working as a GP offshore, treating anything from minor illness such as coughs and colds, to trauma and heart attacks if they arise. Obviously working offshore, the environment and surroundings are very different from working in a hospital or a surgery.

How did you become a medic working offshore?

I qualified in 2000 as an operating department practitioner at the University Hospital of Hartlepool and then worked all over the UK. I then decided to undertake offshore medics training which consists of two weeks in a classroom with exams at the end, and then a week working in accident and emergency and a week in a GP’s surgery. You have to do this every three years as a refresher and keep your knowledge up to date.

The most unusual location you have worked in?

It’s a great job because I have managed to travel all across the world. One of the most unusual places was on an offshore vessel in Greenland. We had icebergs going past the window and pods of whales – it was amazing scenery.

I have also worked in Brazil in the lovely sunshine, but when you go onshore the poverty really stands out and it’s a bit of a culture shock with lots of street kids begging.

Have you been called to treat any unusual injuries or incidents?

The worst incident was treating an offshore worker on an oil rig who had suffered a heart attack. You feel so vulnerable because you are on your own and your only communication is with a “topside”

The Northern Echo: Neil Williamson working at sea

doctor who is located many miles away onshore.

What made you want to work offshore as a medic?

A big benefit is all the extra time you get to spend with your family. I usually work six months of the year and have the other six months off, due to working a four-week on and four week off rotation.

Of course, I also get to travel the world and visit places most people never get to see and paid good money to do so.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?

The most rewarding part is definitely being able to help people get back to health after illness – that’s the reason I became a medic.

I also work as a health and safety advisor, which helps prevent accidents at work. It’s really important to stress that prevention is always the key in any environment, but especially when you are working offshore.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of the job is probably working with people with different cultural backgrounds.

What do you do in your spare time?

I am really into old VW camper vans and am getting one restored. I also like old Vespa and Lambretta scooters and go to scooter rallies during the summer months.