Community Health
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​​​​​​​​Division of Community Health

​​The BScMedScHons (Underwater Medicine) degree programme

Module 2: Operational Underwater Medicine

Brief description:

  • Second of four modules in the underwater medicine degree programme
  • Theoretical training provided via the internet - web-based guidance through the text book and other downloadable documents.
  • Contact time of seven days - usually includes a weekend day.
  • Practical training on the operational support for diving operations

Training outcomes:

The exit outcome for this module is equivalent to the European Diving Technology Committee (EDTC) level IIa (competence in diving medicine). In brief:  training of medical practitioners to render medical support for a diving company or a group of divers.

Successful candidates may be able to register with the South African Department of Labour as a Designated Medical Practitioner (Level 2-air).

The person will be able to render support in the field and in the workplace (commercial divers).  This includes the management of an ill diver in a hyperbaric chamber (including saturation diving)

Theoretical training:

Textbook: Bove and Davis' Diving Medicine (4th Edition)

Alfred A. Bove

ISBN-10: 0-7216-9424-1
ISBN-13: 978-0-7216-9424-5

This book is available for purchase from many online dealers.  South African students may order this book from DAN Southern Africa and delivery takes about two working days (if in stock).

The textbook is addressed in detail from the perspective of providing operational support to divers.  Additional material is available for download for this module.


The students are guided through the textbook by means of prescribed readings of certain chapters in the textbook and additional downloads where certain themes are not covered adequately in the textbook. This can be done at any time and place the student prefers, as well as at a pace that is comfortable. You can test your knowledge by completing online self-tests (with specific guidance in the case of incorrect answers) and after a theme is mastered, you can write the summative assessment for that specific theme (each summative assessment ranges between 5 minutes and 20 minutes).

Practical training:
Practical training is extensive and contains the following elements (see also the pictures):


  • Small-group tutorials on the management of complicated diving incidents
  • Deep chamber dive (50m) on air
  • Saturation chamber orientation
  • Hyperbaric chamber orientation (hospital-linked)
  • Procedures and drills association with diving chambers, SAT systems, hyperbaric chambers



  • Diving with diving gear (open circuit SCUBA, semi-closed circuit, closed circuit - 100% oxygen & constant partial pressure, full face masks - 3 types, helmets - 3 types.


  • Emergency drills & Resuscitation under pressure
  • Tele-management of diving injuries
  • Provision of surface-oxygen using various administration sets


  • Bell dives (wet & dry)
  • Performing commercial diving procedures under water (e.g. welding, grinding, etc.)


Entry requirements:

Each prospective candidate must:

  • have the MBChB degree or any other equivalent degree that enables him or her to register as an independent medical practitioner.
  • be registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa, or an equivalent international professional body that registers medical practitioners (e.g. GMC in the UK)
  • have completed his/ her internship year(s).
  • have successfully completed the Basic Underwater Medicine module, or an equivalent training course that provides recognition of prior learning.
  • be diving medically fit (certified by a Designated Medical Practitioner or equivalent medical practitioner with current registration as a competent to examine commercial divers) to partake in hyperbaric exposures
  • have access to the internet or the ability to gain access
  • be able to browse the internet training site

The following are NOT requirements:

  • Being a diver (recreational or commercial)

Note:  taking part in the hyperbaric exposures of during this module is not a prerequisite for certification in this module, but it is a requirement for registration with DMAC, EDTC, ECB, ECHM & Department of Labour. 


Persons who do not meet the requirements for entry into the module may in specific circumstances be allowed to participate in the module as an observer.  These circumstances are:

  • Should have a medically-related qualification (e.g. nursing care or emergency care)
  • Must be actively involved in diving medical practice with a medical practitioner (e.g. helping with side-room investigations or chamber treatments)
  • Must have a referral letter from a diving medical practitioner (including motivation for attendance)
  • Subject to an interview with the programme coordinator.

Note 1: Observers may NOT receive ANY certification when attending the module.  The person attends the module purely for personal enrichment.  Certificates of attendance are NOT issued!

Note 2: Observers are by definition not medical practitioners.  This module trains medical practitioners to apply knowledge they already have (e.g. resuscitation skills, performance of invasive procedures, etc.).  Students who do not at least have a basic knowledge of these will either waste their own time because they don't understand what is presented in class, or they would want to ask a lot of questions in class, which will waste the time of the attendees.


The examination of this module is done in various stages.  The first stage is done via the internet (summative assessments).  On the last day of the contact session, the students will also write a theoretical examination.  Last-mentioned consists of a number of practical problems that should be solved (paper-exercises) as well as theoretical questions relating to operational medical support and occupational health principles.

Students enrolled for the degree programme will write an examination at the end of their study period, to test their ability to integrate knowledge across all of the modules.


Students who successfully complete the module, will receive:

  • Certificate of competency from the Stellenbosch University
  • Duplicate certificate of competency for submission to the Department of Labour (for South African candidates)
  • Certificate of competency from the European College of Baromedicine.
  • CPD/ CME certificate from the Stellenbosch University

Note: if a candidate chose not to take part in essential hyperbaric exposures, this would would be indicated as a restriction on the certification.  European certificates are not issued in those instances.


This module is accredited with:

  • The South African Department of Labour
  • The Diving Medical Advisory Committee (DMAC)
  • The European College of Baromedicine (ECB)
  • The European Diving Technology Committee (EDTC)
  • The European College for Hyperbaric Medicine. (ECHM)
  • The Stellenbosch University for CPD points

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL):

RPL is provided to any candidate who had previously done a course or training programme in diving medicine.  The Stellenbosch University has specific policies and procedures relating to RPL of a student.  Contact the programme coordinator for more information. 

Persons who have successfully completed a previous diving medicine course usually ask for RPL for such training to gain entry into this module.

Persons who have completed a diving course or a course in occupational medicine will find that these qualifications are helping a lot in this module, although RPL would b​e awarded for a diving medical course and not necessarily for these qualifications.

Contact details:

For more information, please contact Dr. W.A.J. (Jack) Meintjes, the programme coordinator


Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences
Community Health
PO Box 241
South Africa

Tel: +27 21 938-9272