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So You Want To Be A Wilderness First Responder? Part 4: Testing the Mettle

Day Six Of Nols Wilderness First Responder Training At Landmark Learning Brought About The Cardiac Issues

Remember that whole “we’re getting comfortable with each other and the curriculum and relaxing a bit” flowery, lovey-dovey stuff I was just throwing at you in part 3? Well, on day six of Wilderness First Responder training my new friend Rob and I sent our “patient” (classmate) into cardiac arrest.

Sh*t really got real, and those of us that may not have been fully in tune with the levity of situational interrogation and asking all of the right questions of our patients, were really tuned-in after a certain scenario.

“Hope You Were Paying Attention”

The thing about most of the scenarios was that they would throw you into them just minutes after learning the core material in class. Just spend an hour learnin’ how to do traction-in-line? OK, take a 10-minute break, and don’t be surprised when you’re charged with helping that person laying out in the yard that just broke their arm…and it’s protruding. Learn about all the ins and outs of cardiac issues for about 45 minutes? “Ok, let’s do a scenario…hope you were paying attention!”

I’ll be completely honest; Rob and I were pretty much soiling our pants for the rest of the day.

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More Articles In This Series:
Part 1:  There Will Be Blood
Part 2:  “I Just Got Chainsaw Certified”
Intermission:  Everybody Poops…
Part 3:  Enter…the Sneak E Squirrel
Part 4:  Testing the Mettle
Credits:  “Just Let Them Pass Out…”

Probably three-quarters of our Wilderness First Responder classmates actually erred during this one, and the instructors let us know that is was somewhat of a trap scenario, and they may have expected many of us to blow it. But I’ll be completely honest, Rob and I were pretty much soiling our pants for the rest of the day.

Took us that time to come to terms with the reality that we missed something that, in real life, would likely have dire consequences. Well played, instructors, well played. One question I guarantee Rob and I will never forget to ask if ever dealing with a cardiac situation and nitroglycerin is whether someone happens to be on vasodilators!

wilderness first responder moonlight study session
Feeling overwhelmed? Nothing a late-night study sesh can’t fix!
That, or at least make you feel a little better about the day!

Day 6 NOLS Wilderness First Responder Curriculum Quick Hits

Cardiac Issues
Adult & Child CPR
AED Training
Asthma & MDIs
Respiratory Infections

wilderness first responder landmark learning study
Moonlight wilderness first responder landmark learning study

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Day 7 NOLS Wilderness First Responder Curriculum Quick Hits

Toxins & Allergies
Cerebrovascular Accidents
Unresponsive Patients
Anaphylactic Shock
Abdominal Issues
Diabetic Issues

Can You Keep Your Stuff Straight At Night?

So a few days prior we had a mass casualty incident (MCI), which really tuned us in to how to work as a large team with limited resources if or when we would ever have that scenario in real life. Wildly underprepared based on just a taste of that type of scenario, but at least we understand the dynamics involved to a degree.

At the end of day 7 of our Wilderness First Responder course we had a night scenario. Although not a MCI, there were different dynamics in play here. Out of a solemn oath we all gave our instructor no to divulge details, it’s pretty safe for you to assume that everything that we had learned up to this point so far in the week was in play and fair game. 

We were broken into smaller groups, headed out at dark, and after the twilight was gone, were instantly kicked into gear by the scenario at hand, unbeknownst to the members of our 4-5 person groups.

This one took a few hours, and the added dynamic of taking care of medical and triage issues in the dark, with only the “typical” things we had in our day packs, was on the heavy end of the lesson for this one.

Be prepared for anything when you venture in to the wild!

You just can’t assume that you’re going to make it back by dark as planned, so be ready for as much as you can be when entering the wilderness. Although we all felt fairly prepared going into this, when sh*t hit the fan, merely the burden of darkness definitely added a massive amount of pressure and what-the-f*ck-ness to the situation!

Day 8 & 9 NOLS Wilderness First Responder Curriculum Quick Hits

Wilderness Medical Problems
Pregnancy & “Time of the Month” Issues
Urinary Tract Issues
Testicular Torsion (ouch.)
First Aid Kits & Bivy Sacks
Search & Rescue
Gastrointestinal Issues (everybody poops)
Legal Issues & Considerations

And On Day Eight Of Our Wilderness First Responder Course We Got To Sleep In A Whole Hour!

Well, we were out in the darkness unti really late the night before, and many of us were up until 1am just showering to get all of the Poison Ivy off of our skin and clothes! We earned that extra hour!

Day eight was spent in the classroom catching up on the many medical issues you might experience in the wilderness.

I also got a firm grasp on testicular torsion, which is definitely something I’m hoping to Jebus I never have to experience! Preparedness, first aid kits, and bivy sacks were also highly emphasized, especially after the night scenario where many of us found ourselves wishing we had more in our packs!

“With Testicular Torsion consider self-reduction.”

“Is that kind of like traction-in-line?”

Day nine: Test day!

There was a very apparent increase in late night and early morning studiers as the week went on. I think everyone was feeling more and more inadequate regarding the amount of knowledge we were getting compared to what we felt that we were retaining.

Nice coffee shop in town I studied at by moonlight

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I stopped into town Saturday night to a super rad coffee shop to have some tea and a beer to take my edge off, but also to take a Wilderness First Responder online practice quiz. I was at about the 90th percentile on the quiz, so I felt pretty good going into test day!

And then the test came. Yeah, I’m not gonna lie, I was not confident with my performance while taking the written test.

The Wilderness First Responder test that we took was 100 questions based on the entire curriculum, and it required 70% to pass. Not a lot to ask of folks that are potentially putting themselves in life or death situations, in my opinion.

Now, I’m pretty anal-retentive and tend to freak out and over-prepare, so although I did have anxiety while taking the test, it turns out that I actually nailed 95 out of 100. (Those of you that may end up out in nature with me can sleep a little easier now!)

The physical exam was actually taken with another rescuer, so we were “graded” based not only on our individual abilities to handle the situation correctly and competently, but also on how we worked together and shared responsibilities. And the patient for this exam was actually one of the instructors, so they really got first hand knowledge of how we were doing!

Happy to say that my classmate and I did a great job together, and we both passed!

wilderness first responder sticker

Wrapping Up This NOLS Wilderness First Responder Course

Well, if you stayed for the frickin’ book that this 4 (6?) part series turned into, you my friend are a Rockstar! I can’t say enough about the curriculum that NOLS put together and specifically how the team at Landmark Learning executed it.

If you’re not convinced that this Wilderness First Responder course or even the Wilderness First Aid course is something that would be helpful to anyone spending decent amounts of time in the backcountry, then you must be some born-onto-it, MacGyver-styled badass already my friend!

Hope you enjoyed!

And don’t forget: “Red on Yellow…Don’t Pick Up Snakes!”

Like laughing your ass off and sub-par humor?
Click me for more Wilderness First Responder Laughs.

More Articles In This Series:
Part 1:  There Will Be Blood
Part 2:  “I Just Got Chainsaw Certified”
Intermission:  Everybody Poops…
Part 3:  Enter…the Sneak E Squirrel
Part 4:  Testing the Mettle
Credits:  “Just Let Them Pass Out…”

wilderness first responder video
Click to watch the video!

— Jason

Travel Planning Tips

Figure out where you are going & how are you getting there…
I suggest using at least 2 to 3 different travel search sites. Start with Skyscanner or Orbitz or Booking …or whatever aggregator site you prefer. Then when you see what airlines to use, check their respective sites for better deals or rewards flights.

Figure out where you’re going to stay…
If you’re interested in hostels, search Hostelworld or Hostelling International. For longer-term or more private digs, look at Airbnb, VRBO, or you can look for hotel rooms in the links from the search engines listed above. 

Get comprehensive travel insurance, or in the least, travel medical insurance if internationally…
Especially with Covid not going anywhere, get covered. Start with an insurance aggregator like Insure My Trip, or with SafetyWing, World Nomads, or another. Then decide what is important to you; trip cancellation, baggage coverage, medical, or all of the above. And get a yearly evacuation plan, since you’ll have to get home after your emergency! 

Need more resources? Click here!

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