What Makes Wilderness First Aid So Different? I Already Have Standard First Aid

Updated: Jan 14, 2019

Wilderness WFR First Responder Student Assessing A Snowmobiler Having Chest Pain During A Wilderness First Responder Course Offered By Wilderness Rescue Solutions

In today's day in age the majority of the population in their 30's or above have taken at least one if not many Standard First Aid and CPR courses. Usually people in this category have had the training as a requirement of their job.

When taking a typical urban Standard First Aid course the primary focus is primarily on identifying the fact that a medical emergency exists and activating the 911 emergency response system. Lay rescuers are trained in the VERY basics such as applying direct pressure to bleeding and how to provide CPR.

As time has passed one would think that the age old Standard First Aid course would have gone through some evolutions that would increase the lay rescuers ability to render aid and increase their skill set and comfort levels in an emergency.

Sadly the opposite is true. The agencies that be have actually downgraded some of what is taught in the courses curriculum, case in point is the fact that participants are no longer taught how to properly take a pulse and are taught if they can't remember how to ventilate a patient in respiratory or cardiac arrest they should only do chest compressions.

The underlying belief is that 911 has been called and an ambulance will be on scene in minutes. (More Like 20 Minutes)

Now when it comes to Wilderness First Aid training a totally different philosophy is put in place.

The philosophy is that you are one hour or greater from definitive medical care (a hospital, first aid station, etc.) And in all likelihood you will be required to care for the patient for several hours upto days before outside help will arrive.

Now the dynamic has changed greatly from your day to day first aid situation.

The further we head out into the great outdoors and off the beaten path the greater the chance of morbidity and mortality. Know most of us like to think of the wilderness as a fun playground that allows us to escape the day to day rat race and reground ourselves and most of the time this is true.

BUT the mere act of venturing into the wilderness and the very nature of the activities we choose to participate in while having fun in the great outdoors is/are frock with potential hazards and perils.

A nice leisurely day hike results in a broken ankle 5 kms from help and we can't walk out.

A fun family camping trip deep in an inner national park is suddenly interrupted by a life threatening allergic reaction

An ATV rolls and the rider is pinned or thrown hitting their head on a rock which leads to ICP Increasing Intracranial Pressure in the brain due to a life threatening head injury.

These are just a few examples of scenarios that are played out and practiced in countless wilderness first aid courses on a daily basis across the Nation.

One of the big factors that Wilderness First Aid training takes into account is there may be an inability to contact outside help or even if contacted there could be a very timely delay in help reaching you and your patients.

Students are taught to take the full range of vital signs including:

Taking Blood Pressure



Pulse Oximetry

Through the use of a blood pressure cuff, stethoscope and pulse oximeter.

The ability to determine conditions such as Hypovolemic Shock, ICP Increasing Intracranial Pressure, concussions, and possible spinal injuries is critical.

Given the expected delay in the arrival of outside help one must possess the skills to reduce or set broken bones or dislocations if there is a reduction in circulation.

The ability to halt a life threatening anaphylactic reaction through injection of Epinephrine is a critical life saving skill that can't wait for EMS to arrive.

As students progress through the various levels of wilderness first aid training, their skill set and tools to deal with situations increase.

At the Wilderness First Responder Level students earn certification in advanced skills such as the use of medical oxygen.

The standard levels of Wilderness Medicine Training include:

Basic Wilderness First Aid also known as just WFA

Basic Wilderness First Aid is intended for those who participate in and enjoy basic outdoor activities and is considered suitable for day hikers, campers and general recreationists.

Advanced Wilderness First Aid is the next level. Students can start at the advanced level without completing the basic level as all courses include the content of the course below it. A key deciding factor on which course to take is how long you will be out for and how far you will be from help.

Advanced is geared for those who participate in multi day hikes canoe or kayak trips or those who require training related to their work in the field.

Wilderness First Responder is the second highest level before the Wilderness EMT level.

Wilderness First Responder WFR is considered the industry minimum standard when it comes to occupations such as work as a professional wilderness guide, outdoor educators and teachers and many other occupations in the Environmental and science fields. At this level a great deal of emphasis is placed on the principles of prolonged patient care, caring for large groups in remote locations and professional rescuers such as Fire fighters and Search and Rescue Technicians.

Feel free to contact us today if you would like to take a wilderness first aid course or if you would like more information on courses or the industry.

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