On Friday I went down to Durango to take a two day Wilderness First Aid course offered by the Nols Wilderness Medicine Institute. Since I go backpacking so much in the summertime and backcountry snowboard so much in the winter, I figured it was about time I knew these things in case something went wrong out in the wilderness.
Griz demonstrates an improvised leg splint.
We covered a lot of topics during the two 8 hour days, including thorough patient assessment regiments, spinal cord injury management, head injuries, shock, wounds, burns, fractures, dislocations, heat stroke, hypothermia, abdominal illness, and more.
Throughout the course, we set up “scenarios” to practice our first aid responses. The “victims” would be pulled aside and given instructions about their injuries and how to act, along with moulage, or fake blood makeup, to simulate real injuries. The responders would team up in pairs and go through the proper steps: first assessing the scene, then going through the thorough steps of assessing the patient’s injuries, including injuries that might not first be apparent.
We also practiced hands on wilderness first aid skills, such as building improvised splints, taping ankles, and dressing wounds.
It was a lot of ground to cover in just two days. After the course, I still don’t feel like I’m an expert in these topics, but at least now I have the basic knowledge to provide urgent first aid in a wilderness situation; whereas before I would have been completely clueless in a first aid situation. The next step is to update my old first aid kit… more on that later.
Interestingly, I think I was the only person in the course who was taking it just for my own interest. Most of the students were summer camp counselors who were required to complete the course. A few others took the course to recertify their Wilderness First Responder certifications. Anyways I would heartily recommend this course for anybody who spends a fair amount of time in the wilderness. You can check the schedule of courses here to see if there’s a class available near you.