Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health Professions


Special Environment - Polar

Module titleSpecial Environment - Polar
Module codeHPDM074
Academic year2021/2
Module staff

Dr Malcolm Hilton (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module builds on knowledge and skills introduced in the Extreme Medicine Masters programme ‘Core Concepts’ module in year 1. The taught component of the module is all delivered during a residential stay in a polar environment, normally in Northern Norway within the Arctic circle.

Module aims - intentions of the module

In this module you will critically examine the challenges of providing safe and effective healthcare in a polar environment. You will focus not only on the evaluation of health issues to be expected in the field, but the planning and preparation phase for activities in extreme cold weather climates. You will reflect in more depth on the ethical, professional and legal challenges of delivering medical care in remote polar environments.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Define and demonstrate an understanding of the physiological changes the human body undergoes in extremely cold climates.
  • 2. Critically appraise the available evidence for medical interventions in extreme cold environments

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Demonstrate competence and understanding in the planning and provision of safe, effective medical cover for a polar expedition
  • 4. Apply your critical appraisal conclusions to medical decision making in extreme environments

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Collaborate with peers to experience the value of shared and supported learning in a high fidelity context
  • 6. Evaluate and experience the effects of mild to moderate physiological stress (cold, tiredness) on self and team dynamics

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, an example of an overall structure is as follows:

Physiological changes in humans in cold environments

Protection from extreme cold

Temperature ranges and expected injuries

Assessment and treatment of freezing and non-freezing thermal injury

Cold water immersion and hypothermia

Medical kits

Wilderness pain management

Survival signalling, survival kits and polar survival skills


Cold environment camp craft skills, sanitation and hygiene

Polar nutrition

Overview of avalanche rescue

Travel modalities and extraction techniques in remote polar environments


Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching30Residential course: Lectures, seminars, master-classes, practical exercises and group work in specialist areas, and contemporary debates
Guided Independent Study80Reading and preparation for scheduled sessions and coursework. Web-based learning; resource gathering and in-depth reading during the period of module delivery.
Guided Independent Study40Preparation and writing of assignments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group reflection and discussionWorkshop within course1-6

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Written assignment 100Equivalent to 2000 words of written assignment 1-6 Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written assignment 2000 words1-6Typically within six weeks of the result

Re-assessment notes

Please see the Student Handbook for advice


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

Oxford Handbook of Expedition and Wilderness Medicine. 2nd Edition Chris Johnson, Sarah R Anderson, Jon Dallimore, Chris Imray, Shane Winser, James Moore and David A. Warrell—Oxford University Press, May 2015. ISBN: 9780199688418. £34.99

Nonfreezing cold-induced injuries.

Imray CH, Richards P, Greeves J, Castellani JW.

J R Army Med Corps. 2011 Mar;157(1):79-84. Review.

A clinical review of the management of frostbite.

Grieve AW, Davis P, Dhillon S, Richards P, Hillebrandt D, Imray CH.

J R Army Med Corps. 2011 Mar;157(1):73-8. Review.

State of Alaska Emergency Medical service Guidlelines


Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Environment, polar

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date