As I have searched the topics on the Reflector, I find a few threads discussing what to have in a first aid kit, and many posts advising ops to carry a first aid kit. I have not seen any posts describing first aid training.
I’ve spent several decades wandering the hills and mountains in North America and, occasionally, the UK and Europe. Adding a radio to the backpack is a relatively new addition. During that time I’ve fortunately encountered few medical emergencies, but they do come up. Some notable ones in the past few years include having to stabilize a companion’s ankle after a sprain on a back-country trail so that we could walk out to the nearest town, and a hiker who stumbled and hit his head on an inconveniently located rock (in addition to facial abrasions, concerns about neurological effects had to be considered). I actually am a physician, but I retired from hands-on clinical practice years ago. Besides, being trained to be one of a team of professionals in a well-equipped emergency department is much different from finding yourself the sole care-giver in the wilderness with only what you happen to be carrying!
This past weekend I finally took a formal course in wilderness first aid. This one was offered by the National Outdoor Leadership Institute (NOLS), a US institution dedicated to teaching wilderness skills. On Friday evening I took an update for, and recertified in, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). On Saturday and Sunday, in16 hours total, we covered diverse topics including (but not limited to):
- initial assessment of the victim in a wilderness setting
- safely moving the victim to permit assessment and protect breathing
- stopping bleeding
- stabilizing fractures
- treating dislocations
- caring for burns
- recognizing and treating for shock
- recognizing neurological complications
- emergencies from underlying medical problems (allergic, diabetic and cardiac emergencies in particular)
- deciding when evacuation is warranted
- composing a medical alert for radio or cell transmission.
All topics were taught in the context of what you as a responder would have available in the back country, far from clinics, pharmacies/chemists, and rapid-response ambulances.
Even with my medical background, I learned some new things related to care in the back country, and I hope to take some more advanced courses. My classmates almost all were from non-medical backgrounds and they came away with completely new insights and skills. We unanimously felt the instruction had been valuable.
What do other SOTA enthusiasts do to ensure they are prepared to use the contents of those much-discussed first aid kits, and to be prepared for medical emergencies in the hills?