First-aid kits in hand and packs stuffed with miscellaneous camping gear, my classmates and I rushed down to Monument Creek, where a plane crash with seven victims had just occurred.
The injuries included a broken femur, a lost hand, and a lower spine injury. Time was of the essence as rescuers split off into groups to help the patients. One group of rescuers had to pull a patient out of the creek and build a complicated femur traction splint while the patient screamed hysterically.
Another group had the challenge of cleaning and dressing an amputation wound for a patient who only spoke in Czech. Additionally, one of our own rescuers went unconscious from a diabetic attack.
Organized chaos is really the only way to describe this thrilling make-believe medical scenario, which was one of many exercises completed by the Wilderness First Responder students. Other scenarios included helping a teenager with a broken heart and another with a dislocated patella.
The Half Block course was an incredible and comprehensive introduction to the topic of wilderness medicine, though controversy about price of enrolling and lack of class credit surrounded this year’s sessions.
The class curriculum involved splitting time between learning material through lectures and discussion, while the other (and debatably the best) half was scenario-based.
“Personally, I think [WFR] is one of the best trainings an outdoor enthusiast can take,” said Director of Outdoor Education Ryan Hammes, “It prepares you for real-life scenarios that may happen when in the wilderness setting. The training is very experiential and provides ‘hands-on’ practice in treating various signs/symptoms of injuries & illnesses.”
One of the most memorable scenarios was the nighttime scenario, where we traveled to an off-campus location to help save a mystery patient for an extended amount of time. To gain the WFR certification, our knowledge was tested through a multiple-choice exam alongside a practical.
Unfortunately, this training comes at a high price. The course costs between $600 and $700 dollars, and the only way for students to receive college credit was to pay an additional $300 to the University of Utah, who would then transfer credits to CC. So for a grand total of $900 to $1,000, a student could receive one half of a class credit.
This is a new policy, implemented by the academic dean’s office. Two years ago, all WFR students received academic credit. Last year, only one section (30 of the 90 WFR students) received academic credit.
Hammes said, “I believe that students should receive academic credit for this course, as there is so much learning that happens objectively through both written exam and practical evaluations. At CC, we give credit for the EMT-B adjunct course, so I feel [WFR] is a similar offering. It is a nationally recognized certification that is a requirement for many outdoor leadership-related jobs.”
Although enjoying the course, freshman WFR student Nina Murray said, “We were all paying the same amount for the course, and we were all doing the same work as last year, so why didn’t we get CC credit?”
Despite these questions of credit and expense, there were long waitlists to participate in the three full WFR classes offered. Whether you hike, bike, ski, or climb, a Wilderness First Responder certification is ultimately invaluable because it gives you the tools to potentially save your life or another’s life.
Speaking as someone who took the course, Wilderness First Responder training is certainly a wise investment.