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Special Environment - Desert

Module titleSpecial Environment - Desert
Module codeHPDM086
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Malcolm Hilton (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


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 in a desert residential setting overseas, in previous years this has taken place in Oman. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

In this module you will critically examine the challenges of providing safe and effective healthcare in a desert 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 desert regions. You will reflect in more depth on the ethical, professional and legal challenges of delivering medical care in this challenging environment.

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 specific hazards and physiological insults encountered in a desert environment.
  • 2. Critically analyse a range of additional skills for safe, effective travel, camping and survival in a desert environment.

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 desert 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 (heat, terrain) on 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:

  • Heat related illness and physiological dysfunction
  • Common medical problems in a desert environment
  • Managing snake, scorpion and spider envenomations
  • Basic desert survival skills
  • Desert camp craft
  • Understanding water management in the Desert
  • Vehicle skills, driving, extrication and surviving with a vehicle
  • Desert rescue techniques

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 course1-6Written

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 For optional modules students are given a choice of assignment style. There are 4 styles and no style can be repeated in the year 2 optional modules. The choice of assignment style and topic is to be agreed with their tutor in advance. More detailed assignment brief and example topics are available for viewing and discussion100Equivalent to 2000 words of written assignment 1-6Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written assignment (100%)Written assignment (Equivalent to 2000 words of written assignment)1-6Typically within six weeks of the result

Re-assessment notes

Please see the Student Handbook for advice


Indicative learning resources - 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

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Desert, human health, disease, heat-related illness, arid environment

Credit value15
Module ECTS


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date