If you're like most hikers, you probably know how to patch a blister and deal with minor injuries, and being conscientious, you never leave home without a well-stocked first -aid kit. The blood is fake, the bruises paint, and the “victims” healthy as horses.
A 1975 situation involving the “wrong answers” ultimately gave rise to the modern-day field of wilderness medicine. A paramedic named Frank Hub bell was helping rescue an injured boy from Mt.
The boy's arm was so severely fractured he had lost circulation to his hand. By the time Hub bell and the others transported him to the hospital, it was too late to save the hand.
The accident became even more tragic when the emergency-room doctor said the hand could have been saved if the boy's arm had been straightened in the field. Hub bell, sensing a need, went on to found Stone hearth Open Learning Opportunities (better known as SOLO), the nation's first wilderness -medicine school.
This specialized form of instruction revolves around three fundamental differences that separate backcountry medicine from traditional, or “front country,” first aid. The severity of the environment, such as extremes in temperature, weather, terrain, or shortage of food and water.
When you start looking for a good school you soon discover that the field of wilderness medicine is fairly broad. Advances in knowledge, treatment, and instruction have been steady, but so have the number of ill-equipped schools.
“No government agency has stepped in and created a standard for wilderness medicine programs or instructors. These are the three largest, most widely respected schools, and when you consider their well-deserved reputations, it's safe to assume you won't go wrong if you choose any one of them.
If they offer hands-on practice for a variety of injuries, that's good; if they merely provide “Band-Aid” advice designed to make the wounded comfortable as you wait for medical personnel to arrive, then pass. If the institution has been around a while, it means the school turns out happy, well-trained graduates and hasn't been shut down by lawsuits.
Those teaching the classes should also have plenty of on-the-trail backcountry experience and know about the conditions and complications that can arise when hikers are deep in the boonies. This is the standard introduction to backcountry medicine: patient assessment, trauma, environmental concerns, some wilderness rescue, and equipment improvisation.
Backpackers who go on extended trips or are responsible for groups-church, Scout, or hiking clubs, for example-should add one of the longer courses, Forged says. You'll learn, among other things, how to clean and close wounds (something “front country” EMTs aren't taught), straighten fractures, reduce dislocations, tape ankles, improvise splints, monitor vital signs, head-off environmental illnesses like hypothermia and heat stroke, and deal with such backcountry threats as snakes, insects, and allergic reactions.
This course builds on the WFA class, with more time spent practicing. You'll be involved in plenty of hands-on scenarios (lots of fake blood and makeup) that help you put the instruction to practical use.
Instruction is aimed at rescue-team members, backcountry rangers, and medical professionals who work in remote settings. Approved programs have met U.S. Department of Transportation requirements for an EMT license.
Regardless of which type of training you take, there's one highly important thing everyone learns, according to Melissa Gray, director of operations for the Wilderness Medicine Institute in Pit kin, Colorado: how to avoid becoming a victim of what she calls the most unfortunate of backcountry situations. National Safety Council, 1121 Spring Lake Dr., Itasca, IL 60143; (800) 621-7619; http://www.nsc.org.
WMS is a member-supported, nonprofit organization that is devoted to handling the issues of medical problems in the backcountry. While the organization doesn't offer hands-on, instructional classes, if you give them a call, the folks there will certainly help you find one in your area.
WildernessFirstResponder (WAR) is the definitive course in medical training for everyone from outdoor educators, guides, search and rescue team members, to families and weekend warriors who play in remote areas. The curriculum is comprehensive and practical, as students will learn all essential principles and skills required to assess and manage medical problems in isolated and extreme environments.
Our 5-day format is for individuals with less time available for on-site training and only requires 25 hours of PRE- course preparation. College credit is available through the Western States Extended Studies Department.
Daytime training focuses on wilderness and rescue scenarios and practical skills. Expect rescue scenarios with made-up victims and simulated wounds to prepare you for back country emergencies.
Wilderness Medical Associates International provides all teaching materials at no additional cost. The MAI textbook, case studies workbook, field guide, lecture notes, and handouts are included.
MAI’s textbook, Wilderness and Rescue Medicine, is included in the package mailed prior to course start. Wilderness Medic, LLC is committed to making reasonable accommodation to any student with special needs.
Eligible students who successfully complete the course will receive Wilderness Medical Associates International’s WildernessFirstResponder, Anaphylaxis, and Healthcare Provider level CPR certifications. The CPR course is based on the ILC OR/AHA guidelines as published in Circulation in November 2005.
Unfortunately, due to extremely high demand we have a very strict registration and cancellation policy. We recommend the Traveled Insurance Travel Select plan with the Adventurer Plus PAK upgrade.
If notice of cancellation is given in writing at least 60 days prior to the course start date, you will be refunded your full deposit except for a $50 processing fee.