Wilderness First Aid Course

Serious or not serious?

A while ago TBI, STOPEATS, ICP and AVPU sounded like a weird jargon a normal person could never understand. After the Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) and BRIDGE courses to become a Wilderness First Responder (WFR), they all make perfect sense.

Learning useful skills on how to stabilize a patient with life-threatening problems, traumatic injuries or medical issues in the wilderness is truly important but the biggest lesson of all was recognizing the need for critical thinking.

The phrase ”Is this serious or not serious?” was used over and over in the process and that is what it all comes down to.

Together with a mixed group of Finns, Swedes and Finnish Swedish coming from different backgrounds but all sharing the passion for outdoors (working as guides, outdoor or sports instructors, teachers or studying the respective fields) we studied in class and used the newly adopted skills in different scenarios.

Brad and David, the instructors from Wilderness Medical Associates (WMA), were truly passionate about what they do and made it both fun and interesting for us to learn. The course content is nicely fitted to the Finnish conditions and the instructors, although not such fans of the darkness and cold of Finnish November, worked hard to teach us the concept of doing what makes sense right here.

Learning any First Aid anywhere is beneficial but if your playground is the great outdoors or in the backcountry, there are more things to take into consideration as a rescuer. You are not only dealing with the problems your patient is facing, but also with a remote location and the threats that the surrounding environment poses to both your patient, you and the rest of your rescue team.

Being able to make risk/benefit decisions is crucial and after you can assess the situation, your patient and the possibilities for treatment and evacuation, you will know whether you can fix it in the field, whether it is serious or not and ultimately set a correct level of urgency.

Fake blood, make up to present the injuries, broken bones and improvised litters were as much a part of the learning process as other more traditional study methods. On the BRIDGE level there was also a very important aspect that was added to the picture: communication and overall scene management. At that point is wasn’t about diagnosing and treating one problem only, but being able to handle a whole scene with multiple patients and communicating the situation with rescue teams and outside help.

Although nine days of course was quite a handful with all the English vocabulary and medical terminology, it gave me much more than I dared to expect.

I can warmly recommend these courses to anyone spending time outdoors and I encourage you to participate next year to find out what TBI, STOPEATS, ICP and AVPU really stand for!

-Netta Kuivalainen