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A friend just emailed me expressing interest in an outdoor medical course. She asked me to compare and contrast WEMT, WFR and WFA. I field this question on regular basis, so I thought I'd sum up the curriculum and relative merits here.
First, narrowing your options to these three is smart. There are many certifications, but these are the three big ones. Every guide, outdoor educator or park ranger has one of these certs. Many recreationalists do as well. Brief summaries and time commitments are listed below.
|Abbreviation||Course||Hours||In a Phrase|
|WEMT||Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician||200||Stabilize the patient. Solve some problems. And make a long term plan.|
|WFR||Wilderness First Responder||40||Stabilize the patient. Solve some problems. Get him out of here.|
|WFA||Wilderness First Aid||18||Stop the bleeding. Open the airway. Get help.|
Note: Course times vary by provider.
The courses with more instruction are obviously more comprehensive. Let's look at what happens as you increase class time:
Let's take an example. A climber is struck on the arm by a falling rock and begins to bleed profusely.
In the end of the day, there is lots of overlap. WEMT courses typically consist of a traditional Urban EMT course combined with 5 days of wilderness training (EMT + WFR). And the first 18 hours of WFR looks a lot like a WFA class.
How does this help you though? What course is best for you? Do you need a certification? Unfortunately there are no "rules," what makes sense for you depends on a few things:
For a visual explanation see below. You'll see that with further training, you're able to handle more complex issues in more remote areas.
|Moderate Risk||High Risk|
|Weekend Trips||Week Trips||Longer Trips||Weekend Trips||Week Trips||Longer Trips|
|Plan on leading others||WFA||WFR||WFR / WEMT||WFR||WFR||WFR / WEMT|
|Don't plan on leading||None needed||WFA||WFA||WFA||WFR||WFR|
I haven't told you which course to take - but I hope I've help you understand how to frame your decision. In addition to thinking “what do I need” think about what you wan't. Medical courses like WFA, WFR and WEMT are extremely fun. If you like helping others and pushing yourself outdoors, you can't go wrong.
You can always reach out to me for further help.
- Logan ([email protected])
Note: These are my opinions based on: taking a number of medical courses; researching the courses; and working with medical technicians from a numerous backgrounds.
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