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Case Study: An Abandoned Patient High in the Alpine

By Tod Schimelpfenig on 4/18/19 9:05 AM

Photo by Ashley Wise
 

The Setting

You are on a Search and Rescue (SAR) team whose members are Wilderness First Responders (WFRs). You and your team members hike on a rugged trail into Wyoming’s Wind River Range, responding to a vague report that came in at midnight of a “very sick person” camped “near the trail near tree line.” Your team’s role is to sweep the trail in the dark in the hopes of finding out exactly what is going on. A second SAR group is gathering to hike up the trail later in support.

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Topics: Wilderness First Responder, first aid, wilderness medicine, case study

Case Study: A Blow to the Head

By Tod Schimelpfenig on 3/14/19 6:37 AM

Photo by Matt Heaton

The Setting

You are the leader of a hiking group at a summer day camp. Today, you allowed some of your campers with good navigation skills and expedition behavior to walk 3 miles back to your camp on a well-marked trail without a camp leader present.

When the campers arrive, you notice one of them has a bandage on their forehead. You learn that about an hour ago and a mile back on the trail this camper tripped, fell, and knocked their head.

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Topics: Wilderness First Responder, first aid, wilderness medicine, case study, NOLS Wilderness Medicine

9 Wilderness Medicine Acronyms You Need to Know

By Ben Lerman on 3/11/19 12:44 PM
NOLS students practice skills during a scenario on their course. Photo by Kyle Wilson.
 

You’ve taken your WFA, WFR, or WEMT and learned about PAS, ABCDE, and MOI. So many abbreviations, so little time!

Whether you’re filling out a SOAP note for a real-life patient or reviewing your skills with a NOLS case study, wilderness medicine’s plethora of abbreviations and acronyms can be a lot to remember.

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Topics: patient assessment, first aid, wilderness medicine

Case Study: A Backcountry First Aid Mystery from the ’80s

By Tod Schimelpfenig on 2/13/19 11:23 AM

Fashion trends might change, but some things don't! NOLS students backpacking in the mountains. Photo from the NOLS Archives.


This is a tale from the early 1980s. Reagan was President, the internet and cell phones only a dream, and disco thankfully on its last legs. Two friends and I had recently learned wilderness medicine skills through an advanced first aid course, which was an early generation of the Wilderness First Responder (WFR).

Read along to see how you would react to a similar first aid situation today.

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Topics: Wilderness First Responder, first aid, wilderness medicine, altitude illness, case study, NOLS Wilderness Medicine

Case Study: Is That Frostbite?

By Tod Schimelpfenig on 1/24/19 9:13 AM

Rescuers practice giving patient care. Photo by Aron Gooch.
 

The Setting

You’ve been leading an outdoor skills course for young adults, most of it taught indoors or on day hikes. This weekend is the culminating overnight snowshoe trip where you plan to sleep in hollowed-out snow shelters, called quinzhees.

The snowshoe hike went according to plan and you and your group arrive at your planned campsite. Everyone appears weary, happy, and healthy. You note that it is much colder than any previous trip you’ve led, with temperatures hovering near 0°F (-18°C).

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Topics: Wilderness First Responder, first aid, wilderness medicine, case study, winter, frostbite

Your 8 Favorite Wilderness Medicine Posts of 2018

By NOLS on 12/19/18 4:43 PM

While wilderness medicine is a constantly evolving field, some things stay the same—like people wondering whether it’s really ok to suck out snake venom, or the steps of the Patient Assessment System.

As 2018 wraps up, our team gathered this year’s most popular wilderness medicine topics from the NOLS Blog. Take a look to refresh your skills and get ready for whatever comes your way in 2019!

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Topics: first aid, wilderness medicine, Live the Dream

Real-Life Scenario: Stuck on a Climbing Route

By Jake Blackwelder on 11/26/18 8:02 AM

The rescue team. Photo courtesy of Jake Blackwelder.
 

The 911 call: A climber was stuck in a crack on a classic multi-pitch trad route at a well-known sandstone climbing area near Moab, Utah. The incident happened near the top of a large chimney, a crack wide enough to fit a climber’s entire body into. The climber was about 100 feet from the ground and 40 feet below the pitch anchor, the next opportunity to attach securely to the wall.

My wilderness rescue team, consisting of myself, another Wilderness EMT, and three Rope Rescue Technicians, were the ones to receive the call and respond to the incident.

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Topics: rock rescue, first aid, wilderness medicine, rock climbing, scenario

Case Study: A Hard Fall While Skiing

By Tod Schimelpfenig on 11/7/18 1:14 PM


Photo by Brian Fabel.

Editor’s Note: This case study is based on an actual incident that NOLS Wilderness First Responder and Wilderness First Aid graduates responded to.

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Topics: Wilderness EMT, Wilderness First Responder, first aid, wilderness medicine, case study, winter

Real-life Scenario: A Surfing Rescue in Baja California

By Lisa Kosglow on 10/22/18 9:48 AM

Photo courtesy of Lisa Kosglow
 

My NOLS Wilderness First Responder course made a real difference in my life—and someone else’s.

Six months after my course, I was on vacation in Baja California, Mexico, where a south swell lured my family and me to a popular beach to go surfing. At the beach, a few people were in the water, including a small group of surfers and one stand-up paddle boarder. As I paddled over a breaking wave, I saw the next one about to break with one surfer paddling over it and the stand-up paddle boarder dropping in. What happened next played out like a horrible car wreck.

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Topics: first aid, wilderness medicine, case study, rescue

Case Study: Is Hydration Always the Answer?

By Tod Schimelpfenig on 10/10/18 12:35 PM

Photo by Liz Schultz.
 

The Setting

You and three friends are hiking through a sandy wash in the desert. Even though it is fall, daytime high temperatures have been 100°F (37.7°C) with no clouds in the sky.

Your group encounters another party of two hikers, one of whom is lying on the ground under the only small juniper in the area. The other hiker seems worried. You ask if everything is ok. One hiker is fine but asks if you can help with the patient, who he worries is dehydrated or having a “heat stroke.”

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Topics: Wilderness First Responder, first aid, wilderness medicine, case study, hydration

Quiz: Sprains, Strains, and Athletic Injuries

By Ben Lerman on 9/26/18 9:53 AM
 
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Topics: first aid, wilderness medicine, Wilderness First Aid, quiz

Gender-inclusive Communication for First Responders

By Ben Lerman on 8/23/18 8:23 AM


Practicing a patient assessment during a course. Photo by Luis Camargo.

As a medical provider in the wilderness, it’s important to not make judgments or assumptions. For example, rather than assuming a patient is low risk for a spine injury, you can use a focused spine assessment to gather information relevant to your decision.

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Topics: first aid, wilderness medicine, Inclusion, communication

Case Study: Finding a Sick Person High in the Mountains

By Tod Schimelpfenig on 8/15/18 9:05 AM
Photo by Ashley Wise.
 

Recertify

The Setting

You are a Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteer working with a team to sweep a trail in the central Rocky Mountains in response to a vague cell phone report of an ill person somewhere on the trail. Eight miles from the trailhead at 8,800 ft. (2,680 m) you find the patient sitting on a log. After introducing yourselves, and with the patient's permission, you and the SAR team members begin an assessment.

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Topics: first aid, wilderness medicine, Wilderness First Aid, altitude illness, case study

Quiz: Managing Altitude Illness

By Ben Lerman on 8/8/18 8:44 AM
 
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Topics: first aid, wilderness medicine, Wilderness First Aid, altitude illness, quiz

7 Fishing First Aid Hazards (and What to Do)

By Ben Lerman on 7/18/18 8:35 AM


Photo from NOLS Alaska

You’re enjoying a beautiful day at your local fishing spot. Fish are rising everywhere and you’ve hooked three big brook trout already. But your day can easily take a turn if you accidentally walk through a patch of poison oak. Or get stung by a wasp. Or slip on the rocky shore.
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Topics: first aid, wilderness medicine, Wilderness First Aid, fishing