I have been having a lot of discussions about Wilderness First Aid lately. Many folks wonder what distinguishes Wilderness First aid courses and training from other traditional First Aid courses.
First, we need to to look at the level of support that we can expect to have when we respond to an accident or medical emergency. In a traditional First Aid course everyone is trained based on having immediate access to 911 and medical professionals (paramedics, doctors, nurses, etc) are close by. The training on these “Standard” first aid courses is provided to help folks manage an incident for a short period of time while medical personal are on their way to the scene.
The Wilderness that most of us travel in is a completely different environment. It is rare to have access to 911, and even if you can make a phone call it may be hours (or days!) before a medical professional can get to where you are located. You are the primary source of support and care for your patient and must be able to deal with the situation with only the supplies and resources you have with you. If someone needs to be evacuated, you will need to assess the situation and make the decisions, as well as actually carry out the evacuation!
Another important difference is the actual environment we are dealing with during an accident or medical emergency. On our Wilderness First Aid courses, everyone is taught to consider factors such as weather, terrain, hazards such as avalanches and rockfall, river crossings, tidal effects, etc. All of these variables have a significant impact on our ability to perform even the simplest of First Aid tasks.
Consider a relatively common injury such as a sprained ankle – if you are 5 kms from your trailhead over rough and steep terrain and it is early evening on a day-trip, how will you deal with this situation? Do you have the training to determine if this person is capable of walking out, or will walking cause them further damage? Are you prepared to take care of this person for a night out in the backcountry?
There are many aspects of First Aid training that are the same, regardless of where it is applied. Training that is Wilderness First Aid specific will help you prepare for providing First Aid in a remote environment without any outside support.
Check out our Wilderness First Aid courses for more details on Canada West Mountain School and our training programs.