12 Apr Certified in Lander
I had never heard of Lander, Wyoming. They had everything a man like me could ask for though. A good whiskey drink, Karaoke on Saturdays, and a gorgeous landscape with some rugged terrain. I stayed for a while.
I stayed for a month to be exact. I went there to take a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) course. This was a career path I felt was worth exploring. I plan on spending most of the next few years recreating, exploring, and adventuring in the backcountry. The certification from this course would open doors to urban EMT jobs, wildland firefighting jobs, guiding jobs, and outdoor instruction jobs – All avenues I was considering. I decided to take the course at the headquarters of the Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) – without question, the most respected organization in the field. Their HQ was a collection of modern cabins and a beautiful learning facility situated on a picturesque plot of land tucked between red canyons overlooking a meandering creek at the base of the Wind River mountains.
When I arrived the 2nd of January, it was covered in snow. It had dumped 3 feet the day before and I had crawled over the pass in my truck with the fresh snow and icy conditions threatening to slide me off the road. The truck held true though and I arrived in one piece.
The course was intense. If you want to excel, you’d better come ready to grind. The folks at WMI know what their doing. They don’t just prepare you to excel on the National Registry Tests. They prepare you to excel in the field. They prepare you, as one instructor said “so that if their child was hurt, and you showed up as the first responder, they’d be confident and relieved to see that you’d be taking care of their family.”
I snuck out a night or two, here or there, to check out the local dive bar and taste local fare. That’s the way to get to know the town. The other way is to spend a couple days in the Emergency Room. That I did as well.
Part of our instruction was working 12 hours in the Emergency Department of the local hospitals. We faced real patients, saw the interaction and transfer of care between the ambulance and the nurses, got vitals under pressure, and learned a lot of rapport and staying cool when blood was spurting, lives were failing, parents were scared, and children were crying. For me, it was a good measuring stick. It certainly gave me the confidence that I could deal with those scenarios, with real life, keep my head, stay with my system, and deliver good care amidst (most) chaos. I don’t pretend to think that I’ve seen it all. Far from it. I’m sure if I follow this career path, there will inevitably be a day, an incident, that gets me shook, that buckles my knees or pales my face. I’ll be prepared as I can to weather the storm, come back to equilibrium, and do my best for the patient.
That’s the mindset that WMI left me with. Along with that mindset, we learned the basics of delivering babies, protocols around administering certain medications, temporary wound dressings, use of defibrillators to incorporate into Basic Life Support and CPR, and much more. We practiced mock scenarios daily, sometimes hiking a half mile up a ridge to simulate a backcountry broken femur, improvise a splint for them, pack’em in a litter, and carry them back out down a precarious muddy descent.
It was a blast. I met some great folks, the instructors were fantastic, and I ended the course receiving both a renewed Wilderness First Responder certification and my new National Registry Emergency Medical Technician certification.
This is quick plug for Wilderness Medicine Institute. If you’re interested in getting instruction in this field, there is no better organization. Your money will be well spent. Of all my years of education, the instructors and methods of instruction I’ve had with WMI, time and again, have been the most effective of my life. Even if this isn’t a career you’re interested in, if you spend time outdoors, the skills you learn in a WFA, WFR or WEMT could allow you to save someone you love whenever that inevitable accident occurs in the backcountry. So now you know…
…and knowing is half the battle.