Review: National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Wilderness First Aid (WFA)
I recently took the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course at the REI in Bloomington, Minnesota.
In Short: It was a great experience and I would recommend anyone take it.
Length: 16 Hours — Saturday & Sunday 9am to 6pm (w/ 1 hour lunch break each day)
The class was taught by 2 individuals that have worked with NOLS in varying capacities for years. Greg currently working for REI, teaching NOLS classes, and occasionally doing EMT work for adventure races from what I gathered; he previously was a evacuation supervisor for an entire region of NOLS’s classes. Peggy was currently a college level biology instructor and previously worked with NOLS as a trip leader & guide.
The class focused heavy on getting “hand on” experience with triaging patients in the field via NOLS’s patient assessment program (PAS Triangle, image inserted below) — which seems to be a variation of the patient assessment practice that medical professionals use.
I’d say about a quarter of the class was spent learning how to assess patients, half of the class was spent going through specific scenarios and how to respond to those scenarios, with the balance of the class spent in scenario based role playing learning and improvising various treatment methods, and there were a handful of demonstrations too.
The primary topics of the lectures that the teachers delivered were:
- Patient Assessment System
- Initial Assessment Patient Exam
- Vital Signs
- Focused History Documentation
- Spine Injury Management
- Head Injuries
- Wilderness Wound Management
- Focused Spine Assessment
- Athletic Injuries
- Cold Injuries
- Altitude Illness
- The Unresponsive Patient
- Acute Abdomen
While there were no prerequisites for this class, personally I wish I would have went into this class with the basic first aid class from the Red Cross, CPR, and AED training just to have a base knowledge of medical terminology in this space. I feel like having a base understanding of medical terminology would have allowed me to extract more value out of this class. Though having a base understanding of Medical terms is not necessary to get value out of the class, it would have been helpful.
I had a great experience at this class and belive it was worth the cost and time to go through this training. I am interested in taking their Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) course, and possibly their Wilderness First Responder (WFR) class.