Wilderness First Responder (WFR) Class, I did some learning...

So, it has been a couple weeks since the last blog post and for a good reason, I was up in Colma California getting my Wilderness First Responder (WFR) with Sierra Rescue International. What an awesome week it was. Between prepping for it and going to it I stayed pretty busy.

Last year I got my Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) thorough National University and have been working on the wilderness medicine side since then. Unfortunately, with COVID -19 getting to a formal class got kicked down the road a few times. Lucky for me Sierra Rescue International had a class going in sept so I was able to jump on. The logistics of the class made for an interesting adventure with it being held in Coloma at the American River Resort about an hour outside of Sacramento.

Coloma was a really cool treat from the history nerd side because Sutter Creek is where California’s Gold Rush started. So, there was a ton of great history to check out when I was not in class or studying which was a lot of my time, ha-ha. But I did make sure to peel way on a couple evenings and walk the park and check out the exhibits.

I flew into Sacramento on Friday and it looked like the apocalypse with the smoke-filled skies and the sun setting in an ominous red glow in the sky. Lucky for me my buddy Ryan was able to grab me. We went to his house for some last-minute packing before getting on the road to Coloma.

We arrived at the American River Resort around nine at night and got to work setting up camp and getting a lay of the land. The resort is also a popular river rafting destination and was full of campers and rafters. My tent was about to be my home for the next week and nature and the resort the classroom.

No rest for the weary, the WFR is a 72 hour class and the industry standard level of care for most guides and backcountry travelers. This qualification is actually internationally recognized as well and is the real thing when it comes to wilderness emergency medicine. The course was taught over eight days from eight thirty ion the morning to five thirty at night, we had a half an hour lunch break.

Day one was the usual first day of class kind of feel as we all met our fellow classmates and got sent to out respective areas. Class even an outdoor one in the time of COVID presented some unique challenges and they made sure we were safe and taking all the necessary precautions. Masks, gloves and hand washing was the norm on top of monitoring our health so we could focus on learning and there was a lot of that to do.

So, what is wilderness medicine and why do we learn it, great question. Basically, the definition of wilderness medicine is being an hour or more from definitive care i.e. the hospital. While I had my EMT there was a lot to learn when it comes to medical issues and emergencies in the back country. For me it was a good mixture or learning and unlearning some stuff for this environment.

Some of my personal high lights where learning the Subjective, Objective, Assessment and Plan or SOAP Notes as well as the Patient Assessment System or PAS. These are systematic ways of documenting care and your plan as well as assessing your patient.

Another major highlight was the information on injuries from improvised splints, reducing fractures and dislocations to safely and effectively moving your patient. Sometimes the best course of action is to move to help and like Ryan put it so well, “ambulances don’t go hiking”. These skills I believe can really come in handy in the future and are just more great tools to put in our “toolbox”. Also, I am not driving you an hour from a hospital to put your dislocated shoulder back in, ha-ha.

Truth be told I could sit here and nerd out for hours about all the cool stuff I learned but I won’t. I will suggest you look into taking a WFR and if you can’t take a week because of time check out a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) class which can often be done in a weekend. I believe for any of us who recreate in the outdoors and the backcountry these skills are as necessary as map reading and walking.

So, hands down I can totally suggest Sierra Rescue International, their program was amazing, and I walked away with a ton of information and more importantly feeling confident in my skills. It helped me being an EMT but the WFR is for everyone and you don’t need any prior experience to take the class. Our instructor Ryan was absolutely amazing, and the staff was super cool and helpful. Their approach to learning in the outdoors also really helped to contextualize the subject matter and it made for a better class than just sitting in a room. SO, get trained, and if you can’t get trained with Sierra Rescue International please try and make sure your course is affiliated with the Wilderness Medical Society who sets the standardization for these courses.  

I again want to really thank Sierra Rescue International, Ryan our awesome instructor and just as importantly my amazing fellow classmates who I learned a ton from and made this course even better than expected! This was a great experience and I hope you will take to opportunity to get trained to help make safer trails and as always thank you for taking the time to check out our blog.

(I took home most annoying patient and least desired patient, no doubt for my amazing acting... ha-ha)

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