Would I know what to do? Would I have the supplies on hand to treat a wound? If I didn’t have supplies would I be ready to improvise? Do I know the signs and symptoms of heat stroke / altitude sickness / hypothermia / dehydration? What would I do if you got hurt?
I’ve asked myself these questions repeatedly over the last few months as I continue to climb at Enchanted Rock (at night), hike alone and backpack into remote locations. I realized that if any serious accident were to happen I didn’t posess the knowledge or skills to care for an injured person in the backcountry…and neither does anyone I know. And that’s scary. So I enrolled in a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Wilderness First Aid Course to learn some basic backcountry health and safety practices.
For 16 hours over a weekend me and 20 others discussed the ins and outs of wound care – cuts, burns, sprains and breaks – we learned how to assess a dangerous situation and evaluate a person’s injuries, we practiced managing serious and possible head injuries and we played with fake blood. The most interesting and challenging part for me was learning – and practicing over and over – the assessment procedure: MOI, ABCDE, LOC, HR & RR, and SAMPLE, SCTM.
I took copious notes and had a great time learning to tie splints and braces. I practiced assessing surprise conditions on other people. I did full body assessments on strangers. But all this practice made these new, complex concepts stick with me. I even met some cool people that are into the same things I am.
Taking this course made me realize everything I don’t know. That even though I likely have more medical training than most people I go outdoors with, this is just the tip of the iceberg! So I’m considering taking the next step and working toward becoming a Wilderness First Responder. That would be interesting!
My research determined that this course is one of the most thorough Wilderness First Aid Trainings available in the states, and it’s conducted by a top-notch organization with a great reputation in the field. My instructors were incredibly knowledgable, personable, and able to answer every question and demonstrate every concept, and they made it fun too. This class isn’t offered very often and the locations in which its held are pretty limited, so sign up if you get the chance! Check out the NOLS Website for more info on how to sign up.
Please note that all opinions are my own. I’m not being endorsed to write about or take these courses.