Wilderness Advanced First Aid

No cell reception.
3 hours from the car park.
It’s getting dark and it’s snowing.
Your friend has a broken leg and can’t walk.
What do you do?

Scenarios like this is why I just spent the last four days doing my Wilderness Advanced First Aid or WAFA. I’d like to know that when I’m out playing in the wilderness with my friends that I can help them when things go pear shaped.

I already have my standard first aid training but when you’re out in the wilderness there are a lot of other factors that we need to consider. So what does this course do?

“Wilderness Medicine differs significantly from standard first aid courses and other training that are oriented toward urban environments. This course teaches how to manage medical emergencies when hospitals and rescue services may not be available for an extensive time period. We prepare students for emergency situations that involve prolonged patient care, severe environments, and improvised equipment.”

So yeah, I made an ankle splint out of a book and a sling out of a back pack and when someone kebabs themselves on something you take out the impaled object instead of putting on a donut and leaving it in there!

I headed out to Glacier House Resort to meet my fellow students and epic teacher Takuya from WMA. Our class was filled with people with great backgrounds and reasons to take the course. Pediatricians turned kayak instructors, Canadian Avalanche Association employees, search and rescue managers, Parks Canada employees, lifties, pro sledders, outdoor enthusiasts and one crazy Aussie.

After we all met and discussed what our super power would be if we could have one, we went over the course content. Long story short we learnt that first aid is about OXYGENATION AND PERFUSION! So to help someone out we follow the Patient Assessment System. We do a scene size up – is it safe? How many patients do we have? What is the mechanism of injury? Then we move to the primary assessment. As Tak says: Find it, fix it, FAST! The aim of the game is to stabilse the patient in the circulatory, respiratory and nervous systems. We are checking airway, breathing, pulse, bleeding, spine and AVPU status.


We learnt about the secondary assessment which includes learning how to check vital signs and using SOAP NOTES. I’d seen SOAP notes when I was out on ski patrol but never understood how important they can be!


We did some CPR practice and learnt treatments for respiratory problems, nervous system problems, musculoskeletal injuries, lightning and drowning, protocols for wounds and burns, spine assessment, thermoregulation, toxins and anaphylaxis! Not only was I learning all of these treatments in real life scenarios but I also had work in the bar every night. So after four days I was pretty wrecked!


Of all those things we learned, the WAFA course teaches four protocols. These are anaphylaxis, wound management, CPR and Spine injuries.Wilderness protocol is:

A life threatening allergic reaction that effects the circulatory and respiratory systems. Administer 0.3mg of epinephrine.
(Basically I am a pro at giving epi pens)

Wound Management:

  • Clean the wound including remove foreign particles, wash the surrounding area and irrigate the wound
  • Except for punctures, high risk wounds should be irrigated under large amounts of water under pressure
  • Cover the wound with a sterile bandage
  • Change and clean the wound regularly
  • If infection develops apply warm compress, allow drainage and irrigate

(See awesome picture of Megan’s hand. Tak should consider theatre makeup if he ever wants a career change!)


  • Assess and treat according to CPR guidelines
  • If there is still no response after 30 minutes CPR can be stopped
  • CPR shouldn’t be started when a patient has been submerged for more than one hour or a pulse less person with obvious lethal injury

(We had a scenario when the patient didn’t respond to CPR. Even though it was just a scenario everyone was pretty rattled about making the decision to stop CPR and let the person die. I was the patient and did a good job of playing dead ha!)

Spine Injuries:
Spine assessment criteria to determine the need and justification for spine stabilisation.  Clearing patient reliability, spinal column stability and neurologic function.

So after learning everything for these protocols, guess what?!
I passed my exam!!

We also had the opportunity to take a snow orientated rescue and survival course. I got to learn how to make a snow cave, how to survive by making a bivouac, how to carry someone effectively by making harnesses out of ski jackets, how to make a stretcher out of things like skis and tarps and how to make a sweet fire out a tampon!

Our Bivouac shelter
The stretcher that my team made. Although it did crush my fingers!
Art is stoked about learning how to make a human backpack!

It’s been a big 5 days. I was so exhausted and then my car died. I cried in the parking lot haha. But I’ve had a sleep and a celebratory beer and I’m back to normal!
This course has been absolutely fantastic! I’ve met some amazing people that’s for sure. I have learnt some awesome knowledge and for the next three years I know how to help people when they need it. Amy from Flexpeditions is a great Revelstoke gal who runs these courses and I would recommend this course to anyone. Even if you don’t go into the wilderness often the information in this course is so valuable.

Thanks to Tak, our amazing teacher, who has a wealth of knowledge, crazy stories and a wonderful way of teaching.

To the guys who passed the WAFA, congratulations! To the guys continuing to full First Responder: Good luck! You’re awesome and I wish I was doing it with you.


Luckily for me I am about to drive to Rossland to CAT SKIING WOOHOOOOO!!
The next blog should be pretty funny after a solid day out with Big Red Cats.

For more info check out this:

On three:

Love from your newly certified WAFA girl





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