With over three decades of military service under his belt, Army Captain Jerrott’s journey took an unexpected turn when he joined the crew of HMCS Windsor.

On top of transitioning from an Army Captain to a physician assistant (PA) in a Royal Canadian Navy submarine, the scarcity of space emerged as a unique challenge for Jerrott to carry out his medical duties.

“We improvise,” he acknowledges, describing the makeshift arrangements that define his medical practice in the confined quarters. With no dedicated office aboard the submarine, he consults in whatever space he can find.

Despite the constraints, Jerrott is driven by his commitment to provide essential medical care and to find opportunities for growth in limited environments.

He has provided care in challenging and unconventional remote environments, including combat tours in Afghanistan, the High Arctic, Africa, Central America, and Eastern Europe.

“I felt this was an opportunity to bring all that experience to one of the most remote and austere environments, where help could be days or weeks away,” he said.

“There’s 47 other submariners to help support the boat, but I’m the only medical provider,” said Jerrott.

“Whether it’s mental-health care, trauma care, advanced cardiac life support, or any major illness, I’m the only person here with the professional knowledge to deal with that, so it’s very important.”

This also means the medical care that can be provided aboard the boat is very limited. Having the expertise and experience of a physician assistant lends weight and credibility to his advice. In the event Jerrott suggests to the command team that Windsor head to shore to seek help for a crewmember, his recommendation is taken seriously, he added.

Jerrott works each day to get more comfortable on the submarine. A physician assistant’s responsibilities go beyond health care – he needs to be ready to stand watch, drive the boat, and know the sub’s weaponry and Command and Control systems. At the same time, keeping his clinical skills sharp is crucial.

“I’ve shown the crew that I care and that I’m here to support them, and they in turn have supported me,” he said, noting his rapport with the team is also important when it comes to monitoring mental health on board.

“I try to be as available as possible,” he said. “I walk the boat. I go to each space and hang around, have a chat with folks and try to get the pulse of what’s going on during my off-watch time.”

Originally from Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, Jerrott’s CAF career began in the early 1990s in the Army. He joined the medical branch in 2000 as a Medical Technician, before becoming a qualified physician assistant in 2011. He has served with units from the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadian Forces Special Operations Command.

“I appreciate the small-team dynamic and the opportunity to continue challenging myself and learning new things,” Jerrott reflects for those considering the silent service. “You need to have personal perseverance; the learning is not going to be easy or fast. It’s a different lifestyle, but it’s a great thing to be a part of – this is an amazing small team with great people.”

By Editor