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Becoming a Wilderness First Responder!

George shares his experience completing a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) Course on campus during spring break!

George shares his experience completing a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) Course on campus during spring break!

One thing I never really thought I would do at Carleton was stay on campus during break. Don’t get me wrong – I love Carleton’s campus and being in Northfield, but I guess I never expected to want to stay that much.

This spring break though, I had an exceptional opportunity that made staying on campus completely worth it: completing a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course. A WFR is a ~80-hour course in essential wilderness medicine, which trains you to be able to make the best out of any environment and treat life-threatening injuries. Many jobs in the outdoor industry either require or pay a bonus for WFRs, and they are usually pretty expensive, ranging from around $700 to upwards of $2000. Thankfully for me, CANOE (Carleton’s Outing Club) organized the course and secured funding from SAO (Student Activities Office) meaning the course was only $200, a great deal considering the job opportunities it opens up.

What exactly does a WFR entail?

As stated before, a WFR is a course in emergency wilderness medicine. It serves as a comprehensive and in-depth look at the standards and skills of dealing with: Response and Assessment, Musculoskeletal Injuries, Environmental Emergencies and Survival Skills, Soft Tissue Injuries, and Medical Emergencies.

What did the course look like?

The course was eight days long, and took place from about 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM every day, with a one-hour lunch break. We had a wonderful instructor who flew in from New Hampshire. She lectured for about 4 hours a day, with another 4 hours or so dedicated to practice, or “scenarios”. These scenarios involved splitting the group, which was about a dozen people, into two teams, one team as the responders and the other as the patients. The patients would go out into the mini bald spot (or the arb when we had time) and act as injured patients. Through these scenarios, we were able to get a ton of practical hands-on experience with treating injuries.

three people posing for a selfie, one with a bandage on the eye.
George Perry, Me, and Oliver after a scenario (left to right). I have a bandage around my eye protecting my injury!

What did we learn?

As stated before, a WFR course covers a massive amount of material, from sprains to fractures, heat stroke to dehydration, burns to altitude sickness, and many many more. We also learned other emergency medical practices like building shelters and litters (ways to carry immobilized patients safely) with limited materials.

people preparing to carry a patient out
WFR participants preparing to pick up Sergio (he’s in there somewhere, I promise). This makeshift litter is built of extra clothing and a tarp, and could be used to carry a patient out of an unsafe position in a pinch!
people posing under a makeshift tent
WFR participants posing under a tent made of just tarps and drop cloths! It could fit all 13 of us, and was (relatively) wind and waterproof!

Just in the eight days of the course, I learned a TON about wilderness medicine. It’s honestly crazy to think of how much material I took in only in about a week. I can confidently say that I feel much more comfortable leading trips in the outdoors because of this course, and I can happily say that I passed the class, and got my Certification! Hopefully, I will be able to use this to work as a trip leader in the future (but hopefully no injuries!)

George (he/him) is a freshman interested in Geology, Physics, Mathematics, and Classics, from New York City. He loves listening to music (currently Big Thief, Belle and Sebastian, and Alex G), as well as playing the jazz flute and guitar. At Carleton, he’s a gear manager for Carleton Association of Nature and Outdoor Enthusiasts (CANOE) and hosts a radio show with KRLX. You may see him working in the bouldering cave, playing ultimate frisbee for Karls, or thrifting in Northfield. Meet the Other Bloggers!