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Case Study: A Freezing Snowmobile Ride

By Tod Schimelpfenig on Jan 20, 2020
Photo by Marcio Paes Barreto.

The Setting

You are searching, as part of your local SAR team, for an overdue snowmobiler. You know that the overdue person is a 62-year-old male with a history of risk factors for heart disease, but no actual heart attacks. He is described as an experienced snowmobiler and knowledgeable of the local trails. He planned a short ride this morning, due home by noon.

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

A Can of Calm: Applying Wilderness Medicine in Disaster Zones

By NOLS on Dec 19, 2019

A ShelterBox tent lit up with solar lights on the island of Barbuda after hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the Caribbean. Photo by Ned Morris.

NOLS Wilderness First Responder grad Ned Morris is a volunteer ShelterBox Response Team member (SRT). SRT members deploy to areas of natural disaster or conflict-based migration, and help families who have lost everything due to natural disaster or violence. ShelterBox provides shelter solutions, including tents or house repair kits, as well as water purification systems, solar lighting, cooking sets, and much more. There are just over 100 active Response Team members in the world; less than 40 in the U.S. Read the following Q&A to learn more about Ned's humanitarian work with ShelterBox and how his WFR helped prepare him for this role.

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

Case Study: Cold Injuries on a Hike

By Tod Schimelpfenig on Dec 17, 2019
Photo by William Wamaru.

The Setting

You’re the trip leader for a group of teenagers on a nine-day backpack in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana. The rivers are up and every crossing has been wet. A late spring snowstorm dropped several inches of new snow and brought cooler temperatures. 

You’ve encouraged daily foot checks, changing socks and staying as warm and as dry as possible—all relative to the reality of these conditions. At today’s midday rest break you realize no one has dry socks and one of the participants says his feet hurt.

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

Thankful for Wilderness Medicine

By Audrey Goral on Nov 22, 2019
Audrey carrying her mother and her blistered feet across a river. Photo courtesy of Audrey Goral.

Preparing for family adventures

My mom and I go backpacking frequently in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Our typical playground is the western Sierras between Yosemite and Kings Canyon, ranging from quick weekend to two-week trips. We’ve also section hiked the John Muir Trail and hiked rim-to-rim-to-rim in the Grand Canyon. 

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

Wilderness Medicine and the Zombie Apocalypse

By Colleen Kelley on Oct 31, 2019
Illustration by Kayla Lopez.
 
To get into the Halloween spirit, NOLS is exploring how wilderness medicine skills apply in an apocalyptic setting. You may be surprised to learn that you're prepared to survive the walking dead (and also to remove impaled objects when it’s not the end of the world)! Have a spooky, happy Halloween!
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Topics: Wilderness First Responder, first aid, wilderness medicine, NOLS Wilderness Medicine

How Backpacking Sparked a Love for Wilderness Medicine

By Jack Johnson on Oct 9, 2019
Foggy hike in the Bighorns. Photo courtesy of Jack Johnson.

Hiking to Head Injury

During the summer of 2017, when I was 14 years old, I took part in a 21-day NOLS backpacking course in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. Just halfway through the course, I watched what (at the time) I considered to be an incredible feat of medicine. Another student on my course tripped and fell while walking across a burned-out section of forest and—under the heavy weight of his pack—hit his head on a rock. In the days that followed, I watched my two incredible instructors treat a possible concussion.

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

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, first aid, 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: first aid, 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: first aid, wilderness medicine, NOLS Wilderness Medicine, quiz