Into the wilderness

Outdoor Program hosting a Wilderness First Responder course in March

The Outdoor Program at the Academic Student Recreation Center, in coordination with the Wilderness Medical Associates will be hosting a Wilderness First Responder course from Saturday, March 20, to Wednesday, March 24. This course is available to Portland State students, staff, faculty and the general public.

“The WFR course is about back country medicine—how to deal with emergency situations when there isn’t a hospital or formal medical care close by,” said WFR student coordinator and senior Spanish major Lanie White. “Wilderness and Rescue Medicine differs significantly from conventional medical courses and other programs that are oriented toward the urban environment.”

First-aid: A wilderness first responder who works in the Rec Center demonstrates how to brace a broken leg.Saria Dy / Vanguard Staff
First-aid: A wilderness first responder who works in the Rec Center demonstrates how to brace a broken leg.

The five-day course will be held at PSU with one day of field work at the Tyron Creek State park from March 24 to 28. The instructors will be from the Wilderness Medical Associates.

“Anyone who participates in outdoor recreation, especially back-country recreation, should be interested in this course,” White said.

The WFR course is designed for people who spend a significant amount of time in remote places or for those who have a professional career in the outdoors. This intensive course involves handling outdoor emergencies in places where 911 emergency services may be inaccessible or might take too long.

“These courses teach you how to approach a medical emergency when help is miles away and calling 911 isn’t an option,” White said. “We prepare students for emergency situations that involve prolonged patient care, severe environments and improvised equipment.”

The WFR course certification, valid for three years, is recognized nation-wide and includes WMA basic life support and CPR. The fast-paced and engaging course involves five days of training in addition to 24 hours of pre-course work. The participants will spend time outside the classroom learning hands-on skills and realistic scenarios, including mock rescues.

The curriculum for the course includes long-term patient care, wound management, straightening angulated fractures, reducing dislocations, litter packaging and medication administration. This course would provide the participants the tools and confidence to manage patients for multiple days.

The WFR course has become the gold standard of medical training for outdoor educators, guides, expedition medics and sail-training crews. The five-day option covers the same material and meets the same standards as those applied to the traditional eight-day course. It is designed for professionals who have less time available for on-site training, but have the self-discipline to complete approximately 24 hours of pre-course preparation.

Participants are required to sign up two weeks prior to the course to allow time for assigned reading, case reviews and self-assessment. On-site training will reinforce and expand on the knowledge that the participants have already acquired.

The deadline for registration is March 21. The course is currently full, but the ODP is accepting people on a wait list. Interested students can call or go to the ODP office to sign up. There are no pre-requisites for the course, which costs $245.

“The course is held every spring break through the Outdoor Program,” White said. “People are excited about the course. The unpredictability that exists in the wilderness heightens the risks that exist, but the knowledge that we gain from courses like the Wilderness First Responder helps us to both prepare for and mitigate those risks.”


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