Conversations with your Dive Doc

By: Patrick O’Boyle APP/NRP/DMT

So you have been asked to see a Dive Physician in relation to something on your Diver Medical Form that was concerning to your Team Leader or Instructor. You take your completed form to the Certified Dive Physician for an appointment to discuss these concerns. Be ready to answer the best question you’ll hear all day from the Physician; “So what brings you here to see me today.”

There are many answers that may come to mind at this moment, but stay focused. You are visiting a physician for the sake of protecting yourself and your team. Untruths can only lead to larger problems for everyone associated with you and your team.

Now, let’s go back to the beginning.

You have filled the medical questionnaire out with complete honesty and integrity. The medical form covers the major medical areas that could affect changes while being submersed. The standard ERDI medical form has pages that even help a medical practitioner better understand why certain information is being analyzed. This information ensures that a dive-related medical checkup ensures that a team member is physically able for subsurface operations.

There are some very personal questions on this form and if they are too sensitive, leave them blank for the Dive Physician to discuss with you. Yes, the team leader or dive professionals you work with will see the completed form, but safety and understanding is always paramount to unneeded risk.

The Dive Physician you should see when undergoing a dive team medical check should be a Medical Doctor who has received specialized training in Dive and Hyperbaric Medicine. For a complete list of Physicians refer to (Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society) and their web page will direct you to practitioners in your State.

Dr. Brian Keuski, MD, a Duke Dive Medicine Fellow states,

“We need to discuss the reason for the referral of any patient for Diving Medicine for a few conditions that are predisposed and worsened by submersion.” (blockquote)

These conditions can include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, a history of pulmonary disease such as asthma, and various others. “It’s not that we are preventing participation in recreational diving, or stressful environment diving like Public Safety. It’s just a safer way to participate if any history listed above is in your medical past. We will help you be the safer diver, and at the most give a medical reason why diving not recommended based upon a past Medical History.” (

The restrictions placed upon me were not the best news

I can pen that I am a patient of Duke Dive Medicine after having a total knee replacement. Disclosing that I also work there, my experience has been nothing but outstanding. The restrictions placed upon me were not the best news I have had but they are 100 percent looking out for me and every other patient that they evaluate. I can say at this writing that the restrictions and rehab schedule placed upon me by both Duke Dive Medicine and my training officer (Dr. Thomas Powell of Air Hogs Scuba), have helped assure me that when I go for my dive physical on March 5, I will pass with flying colors.

Not every diver has a Duke campus in their region, but by contacting the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society for a Physician near you for a consultation of your medical history and personal physical condition, you will receive help finding a proper evaluation to guide you to be a healthy diver who can enjoy this wonderful sport.

What’s the problem with improper evaluations?

Now we have discussed the how and why factors associated with receiving a proper medical evaluation for public safety diving. Let’s look at the problems with improper evaluations. Imagine you are worried you will lose your position as a team diver. You let your integrity bend and you are not totally honest when you complete your form. There are some past issues or even current medications that you do not list and you try to hide. In the recreational world of scuba diving, we hit the water to relax, have fun, and find comfort in different ways.

Conversely, public safety diving is a job.

Whether you are paid, or a volunteer, you train and take calls to assist your community and others. The environments are often high-stress, and the conditions are poor. You carry extra gear, worry about contaminants, visibility is often bad, entries and exits can be problematic, and “Murphy’s Law” is always present. In essence, public safety diving can fill a diver with worry, adrenaline, fear, pride, and every other major emotion a person can experience all at once.

These factors can exacerbate other physical conditions. Those little facts you didn’t worry about on your medical form can grow into larger problems. At the time when your team is trying to help someone else, you could become a victim. Now everyone involved has a higher level of risk, and more problems to deal with. Team members should be able to trust each other when times are bad. Do you best to stay honest, protect your team, and protect yourself.

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