It’s no secret that many medics enter the EMS industry because they are active individuals who thrive in demanding situations which offer the unique challenge and thrill of facing different types of calls day in and day out. They may also appreciate the non-traditional work schedule and ability to have multiple consecutive days without work shifts that allow them to pursue other activities outside of life in the field. While many responders are content in an urban environment, the opportunity to serve as a medic in remote locations and face unique emergency situations leads some medics to seek opportunities as a certified wilderness EMT through specific wilderness EMT training courses.
What is a wilderness EMT?
The phrase wilderness EMT is actually a bit misleading in most cases. There are several providers who offer certification as a wilderness first responder, or WFR. These courses are generally 60 to 80 hours in length and are intended to provide civilian responders with critical BLS and patient stabilization skills that can be utilized in remote situations in which emergency response units may not be available or in outdoor environments which offer challenging and uncertain hazards. These courses are intended to prepare the non-professional responder with the ability to stabilize a patient until they can receive more advanced emergency medical care.
- Wilderness Medicine Training Center
- Wilderness Medicine Institute (a division of the National Outdoor Leadership School)
- Wilderness Medical Associates
These agencies provide training and wilderness first responder certification for candidates who enroll in one of their programs. However, these courses obviously don’t provide the necessary training to become certified as an EMT.
So who can become a wilderness EMT?
In recent years, some of these providers have developed unique hybrid programs which actually offer a fully accredited EMT training curriculum and concurrently provide candidates with the unique skills which are honed through attending a wilderness medicine course. Upon completion of one of these hybrid WEMT courses, the candidate will be able to apply for both NREMT or similar state certification as an EMT-Basic and also for certification as a wilderness emergency medical responder. These programs offer an attractive time-saving option for those candidates who know that they will want to apply their EMT certification to a position that will require them to work in remote outdoor locations, such as with national parks or ski patrol units.
But, not all wilderness EMT courses are the same.
While many programs do offer the hybrid EMT / wilderness responder certification, some programs actually require applicants to hold current certification as an EMT-Basic or higher. These programs are intended specifically to provide current medics with the additional skills required to serve as a responder in positions that require these advanced capabilities. They may also be beneficial for medics who simply want to prepare themselves to be able to provide proper emergency care in environments which they may find themselves in “off the clock”. Furthermore, for currently certified medics who are in need of continuing education hours for re-certification, some of these programs may meet the standards defined by the Continuing Education Coordinating Board for Emergency Medical Services, or CECBEMS.
What do wilderness EMT courses cover?
The hybrid wilderness EMT training programs obviously cover many of the topics which are taught in traditional EMT training programs such as patient assessment, airway management techniques, and patient stabilization and immobilization. However, these WEMT training programs introduce additional material which has been traditionally presented in the wilderness first responder curriculum. Some of these topics may include training in:
- Specialized mechanical rescue techniques
- Aeromedical evacuation techniques
- Swift water rescue techniques
- Survival skills
- Botanics for medical purposes
- Remote medical kit preparation
- Frostbite injuries
- Altitude sickness
- Weather and environmental assessment skills
Where can you find wilderness EMT jobs?
Receiving certification as a WEMT means that the “EMT” designation of the certification allows the wilderness medic the opportunity to apply for openings anywhere they are certified to practice. However, those positions that typically require certification in wilderness medicine may include national and state parks, private and public seasonal camp programs, instructional positions with wilderness first responder training providers, and many other agencies which operate in remote outdoor environments such as wild fire response units and ski patrols.
If you’re an active outdoor enthusiast and enjoy the rigorous challenges of the great outdoors, you may want to consider certification as a wilderness EMT. While the employment opportunities may not be as abundant as those for urban EMTs, the unique demands of positions which respond to emergency calls in remote outdoor locations might make it a suitable career path for those who don’t mind facing the challenges of responding without the assistance of traditional EMS units.
This video from Remote Medical International provides a glimpse into the WEMT training course which they currently offer: