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Wilderness First Aid Afloat

This  past weekend I had the pleasure of teaching a SOLO Wilderness First Aid Afloat Course at the Waldo County Technical Center in Belfast, Maine. This is the fourth year I have taught this course for the Maine Island Trails Association (MITA).  MITA 

I don’t get on my soapbox about many things but Wilderness Medicine is one of them. I believe with all my heart that anyone who spends time in the back country, regardless if they are a guide or out with family or friends, should have this training. This training will give the expertise to save someone’s life.

Wilderness First Aid Afloat is a partnership between the USGS and SOLO School of Wilderness Medicine. It is designed for those who play and guide in the marine environment. It is a combination of classroom lecture, practice sessions, and scenarios.

From the SOLO website:“The SOLO Wilderness First Aid Afloat course contains all the same information included in the SOLO Wilderness First Aid course with the exception of altitude illness. It also includes additional topics that are of specific interest to boaters, such as sea sickness, marine bites and stings, and some types of injuries that are more common in marine environments. This new program is also slightly different from the regular SOLO WFA course in that topics like sending for help have been adapted to be more applicable to situations that might arise on the water and in a water-based environment. The WFA Afloat meets all requirements of the United States Coast Guard for a Wilderness First Aid Course, and is listed as an approved course and curriculum by the USCG.”

I start the course by telling my students, “If your brain does not feel like it is going to explode by the end of the weekend I haven’t done my job.”

We start off with the ABC’s of wilderness medicine, the foundation for all first aid courses. The ABC’s (Airway, Breathing and Circulation) are a method for assessing and treating life threats. From there we move onto shock, musculoskeletal injuries (sprains, strains and fractures), survival skills, environmental emergencies (hypo and hyperthermia), marine bites and stings, lightning, drowning, soft tissue injuries, and medical emergencies. Each topic illicits lively conversation, stories and “what if’s?”  If there is one constant in wilderness medicine it is that nothing is black and white.

One thing I love about this group of people is their experience and passion about boating. From sharing stores with other Maine guides to commercial fisherman and recreational boaters, I ALWAYS learn something from these courses.

It is fun to watch the creative solutions that folks come with, using only what they have in their pack, to splint, wrap, and bandage patients. Through two days it is amazing to observe students progress from that wide eyed overwhelmed feeling to that ah ha moment where it clicks, makes sense, where they gain the self-confidence and understanding to what it means to improvise treatment and to think creatively.

I love teaching wilderness medicine. I believe in the importance of learning basic techniques that can save someone’s life. I have three more Wildeness First Aid classes this spring.  If you spend time in the back-country fishing, hunting, camping, paddling, backpacking, climbing…. please consider taking a Wilderness Medical course.  Check out the link below and sign up now. You will not regret taking this course!


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