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Wilderness First Aid: 5 Steps of a Scene Size-up

By Tod Schimelpfenig on Aug 19, 2019

Photo by Jared Steinman.

You’re out for a hike, enjoying a beautiful day in the mountains. Pausing to take a sip from your water bottle, you survey your surroundings—and suddenly notice the fallen hiker up ahead. You put your water bottle away and start walking toward the crumpled figure beside the trail.

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Topics: patient assessment, first aid, wilderness medicine, Wilderness First Aid, NOLS Wilderness Medicine

ABCs of Wilderness Medicine: The Initial Assessment

By Tod Schimelpfenig on Aug 19, 2019

NOLS Wilderness Medicine students participate in a hands-on scenario. Photo by Lena Conlan.

Your weekend adventure in the mountains takes an unexpected turn when you spot a fallen hiker beside the trail. Fortunately, after a brief moment of panic, your wilderness medicine training kicks in and you complete a thorough scene size-up.

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Topics: patient assessment, first aid, wilderness medicine, NOLS Wilderness Medicine

Case Study: Treating a Feverish Patient

By Tod Schimelpfenig on Jun 13, 2019
Photo by Nicholette Hilbrich.

The Setting

You’re a biologist working out of a remote ranch on the sagebrush plains of southern Idaho. It’s early May. You ride and walk daily to survey herds of pronghorn as part of a research program. One of your classmates goes to bed feeling lousy—achy, nauseous—and wakes up feeling worse.

Knowing you have training as a Wilderness First Responder (WFR), your colleagues ask you to take a look at this poor fellow.

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Topics: Wilderness First Responder, first aid, wilderness medicine, case study, NOLS Wilderness Medicine, flu-like illness

Wilderness First Responders: #lowkeysuperheroes

By Eric Johnson on Jun 3, 2019

Practicing splinting a broken bone. Photo by Taylor Bach.
 

At age 41 I have repented of some of the bad behavior of my youth. No longer will I leave fish around the tents of my friends when we camp in bear country. Nor will I begin my pre-trip safety talks with the phrase, “What could possibly go wrong?” And, if possible, I will read the rapids and then run them instead of running them and reading about them later in camp when I finally find the guidebook. 

To this end, or rather, new beginning, I enrolled in a Wilderness First Responder course with NOLS this spring.

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Topics: Wilderness First Responder, wilderness medicine, NOLS Wilderness Medicine

Case Study: A Blow to the Head

By Tod Schimelpfenig on Mar 14, 2019

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

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

By Tod Schimelpfenig on Feb 13, 2019

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

Shock: What Causes It and What To Do

By Ben Lerman on May 31, 2018


Photo by Mike Trewartha.

What is shock? It’s a term that gets used frequently in casual conversation to describe emotional reactions. It’s also a serious medical condition that can be difficult to recognize, and even harder to treat, in the wilderness context.

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Topics: first aid, wilderness medicine, NOLS Wilderness Medicine, shock

Case Study: Falling Through the Ice

By Tod Schimelpfenig on Jan 24, 2018

Editor’s Note: This case study is based on a real-life incident from the early 1980’s.

The Setting

You and three friends are on an early winter ski trip. To shorten the route, the group decides to cut across a lake, despite previously agreeing to avoid the lakes due to thin ice.

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Topics: wilderness medicine, case study, winter, NOLS Wilderness Medicine, hypothermia

Quiz: Allergic Reactions and Anaphylaxis

By Ben Lerman on Jan 17, 2018

 

 
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Topics: wilderness medicine, NOLS Wilderness Medicine, quiz

Case Study: How to Manage Frostbite

By Tod Schimelpfenig on Dec 14, 2017

Editor’s Note: We developed this hypothetical scenario to represent a common and plausible situation on winter backcountry trips.

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Topics: wilderness medicine, case study, NOLS Wilderness Medicine, frostbite

7 Jobs You Can Get with a Wilderness Medicine Certification

By Ben Lerman on Dec 6, 2017

You’re thinking about starting a new career. Your dream job might be working in the mountains. Or as a first responder with Search and Rescue. Or providing medical care in a hospital. Or maybe you want to instruct NOLS courses.

If you're looking to get into one of these fields, getting a wilderness medicine certification such as a Wilderness First Responder, Wilderness First Aid, or Wilderness EMT can help you get started.

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Topics: wfa, WFR, wilderness medicine, WEMT, NOLS Wilderness Medicine

Responding to Hurricane Harvey with Wilderness First Aid Skills

By Brad Zirkel on Oct 31, 2017

We found ourselves in our boat pulling away from the only dry land we could see. It looked as though a normal city neighborhood, with older homes lined up in rows covered by large shade trees, had been built in the middle of a shallow lake.

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Topics: first aid, wilderness medicine, NOLS Wilderness Medicine

Case Study: BASE Jumping Accident

By Jake Blackwelder on Oct 24, 2017

Editor’s note: This case study is based on a real-life incident responded to by NOLS Wilderness Medicine Instructor Jake Blackwelder.

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Topics: wilderness medicine, Wilderness First Aid, case study, NOLS Wilderness Medicine

9 Hygiene Tips for Your Camp Kitchen

By Ben Lerman on Sep 27, 2017

Telling your friends about the peak you climbed or the rapid you ran are the things you want to bring home from the backcountry—not a foodborne illness.

Taking turns cooking is a part of camping, and it helps when everyone has the same routines for kitchen hygiene, especially for friends who are new to cooking in the outdoors.

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Topics: camping, wilderness medicine, cooking, NOLS Wilderness Medicine

5 Things to Check in Your First Aid Kit

By Tod Schimelpfenig on Jun 27, 2017

Be honest—when was the last time you looked inside your first aid kit? Was it just last week, or was it long enough ago that you couldn’t confirm whether a family of packrats had made a home in it or not?

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Topics: wilderness medicine, Wilderness First Aid, First Aid Kit, NOLS Wilderness Medicine