Wilderness Medicine

Wilderness Medicine, as you will find the term commonly used, extends the topics commonly taught in first aid, first responder, and emergency medical technician programs. Instruction in conventional first aid courses routinely includes such a phrase as "...until the ambulance arrives." Emergency medical technician programs presume the rescuer is either a member of an ambulance crew or can anticipate arrival of an ambulance very quickly. One of the guiding principles of the emergency field treatment for trauma (injuries, as opposed to illnesses) is that the urgent goal is to place the patient in a medical facility, preferably an emergency department qualified to surgically treat traums, within one hour of receiving the injury. Emphasis is on getting the patient safely off the scene within ten minutes of the ambulance arrival.

Wilderness medicine, in the context of emergencies, presumes that the ambulance or air ambulance is hours to days from arriving. This is a very real possibility when the injury occurs on a backcountry trail, and someone may well have to walk out to summon help or the patient may have to be laboriously carried out. Wilderness medicine also includes such matters as environmental injury from cold, heat, or high altitude, the effects of toxic plants and animals, and the types of injuries that may be experienced from the stresses of moving and working in the outdoors. By necessity, wilderness medicine includes the basics of rescue and transport in backcountry settings.

You will see a course titled "Wilderness First Responder" mentioned repeatedly. Completion of the equivilent of this course is almost always a prerequisite for employment as a facilitator or councelor in a wilderness or outdoor adventure program and many summer camps. The "Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) course usually prepares the student to take the certification examination in one or more states or the National Registry. It will be quite a substantial course that includes the standard EMT material plus wilderness and rescue topics.

There are currently no standards for "wilderness" medical courses, except those of the organizations that have developed their own. Although most will be quite similar, the "wilderness" portions are developed solely by the individual organizatons and companies. Of course, those courses that also prepare students for EMT certification must conform to the standards of at least one state or the national standards.

Whether you are seeking the knowledge to travel safely in the backcountry or searching for professional certification, we invite you to join us during the 2006-2007 season.

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