Wilderness First Aid

Well, I completed more training today.  Yep… can never have enough training.  But today I completed a Wilderness First Aid course.  Two reasons for the training.  First, it is a requirement for each crew on a Philmont trek to have at least one person in the crew certified in Wilderness First Aid.  You also need to have a current certified CPR/AED member of the crew.
Last week at our Troop meeting we certified everyone in the troop on CPR/AED.  It’s just a good idea.. more training never hurts.  So we have lots of CPR certified folks heading to New Mexico.
Second, Wilderness First Aid is a great idea for a troop like mine.  Being in the back country each month we have to be prepared and part of that preparedness is being trained.
So lets talk about Wilderness First Aid for a second.  Three things:
First.  Depending on your level of competence or skill level in first aid the Wilderness first aid course will either bore you or you will learn a ton.  Having said that, there is never a reason not to take the training to reinforce your skills.  Much of the Wilderness First Aid class is a review on basic first aid.  IF you spend a good amount of time training your Scouts on their trail to first class you will know much of the first aid introduced in the class.
Second.  There is material to learn.  What I took home from the course were two things.  Rapid Body assessment and spinal injury training.  Those two things were a fantastic piece of training and extremely valuable.  Basic First aid rarely discusses spinal and or head trauma.
And finally, it’s about muscle memory.  If you don’t use it.. you lose it.
The course places you in scenarios that allow you to develop and hone your first aid skills.  It places you in situations that require thinking, skills, and working as a team to assess, treat, and stabilize a patient in the wilderness.
Take Home points.
Here is what I learned (aside from the additional skills).  I learned that assessment is critical to negotiate a good treatment and stabilization plan.  I learned that CPR really is [in most cases] a token effort that with a few exceptions will not save a life.  It may sustain life until professional help arrives and ‘calls the time of death’.  Like I said.. there are exceptions and for us Scouters the good news is that it works well on kids, people who have been submerged in freezing water, and lightning strikes.  So the next time you are planning on an injury.  Be a kid struck by lighting on a cold lake.  I am kidding, but I was surprized to hear and see evidence of just how ineffective it is.  Having said that… do it.. it’s better than doing nothing.  But really, once someone goes into cardiac arrest.. there is too much damage to the heart.  So says the Red Cross and most search and rescue folks.
Assessment is critical, I have said that?  Wilderness First Aid has given me tools to use to do accurate and timely assessments.   The other reality that we were introduced to was the fact that (out here in the west) help is not on the way any time soon.  For search and rescue you can expect to sustain a victim for up to 5 hours.  That is a long time to sustain treatment.  It is a challenge and one worth the time, but as a Scout leader in the Northwest, knowing that help is a long ways out.. It equips me with the knowledge that we have work to do when it comes to treatment.
And the last thing that I learned is that I have a good foundation of First Aid skills and am not afraid to use it.  controlling a situation, assessing the victim and the environment and moving to rapid treatment seem to be a strong suit of mine.  And so it goes into the tool box of Scoutmastership and the confidence that taking these Scouts into the wilderness is worth the risk inherent in the activities associated with being a backpacker.
So the wilderness first aid course is complete.  Never stop learning, and I will re certify in two years.
One step closer to Philmont and one more training class that made my Scouts a bit safer or at least prepared.
If you get a change to take the course.. take it.
Here is a link to the BSA site on Wilderness First Aid.
Have a Great Scouting Day!


  1. Hey I guess it would be a good idea to discuss what you get in the Wilderness First Aid course.. I have checked both the Red Cross and the WMI syllabus… both organizations offer the same course outline.
    Here is what you will learn:
    The 16 to 20-hour Wilderness First Aid course includes many advanced topics that other programs leave out such as reduction of dislocations and epinephrine administration.
    Topics include:
    Patient Assessment System
    Evacuation Plans and Emergency Procedures
    CPR (this is a prerquisite for the course, but you will cover it again)
    Spinal Cord Injuries
    Long-term Patient Care
    Head Injuries
    Wilderness Wound Management
    Athletic Injuries
    Fracture Management
    Cold Injuries
    Heat Illness
    Altitude Illness
    Wilderness First Aid Kits

    Just thought I would share that… did not put it in the original post. But yeah there is a lot to learn, but more important (IMO) practice.
    Have a Great Scouting Day!


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