From planning our trips to managing risks in the field, keeping students safe on Cottonwood Institute programs is our number one priority. Whether we’re taking kids on a remote 4-day backpacking trip in Dinosaur National Monument or a 0-degree windchill field day to Barr Lake State Park, instructors have to be ready for anything. That’s why we were so excited to partner with Global Emergency Medics (GEM) to deliver our Winter Instructor Training this January!
With direction from our knowledgeable GEM instructor, Owens, our Cottonwood instructors spent the day practicing our emergency response with real-world backcountry medical scenarios. All of our instructors have taken Wilderness First Aid (a 2-day course) at a minimum, and most have taken the more intensive Wilderness First Responder (weeklong course) or Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (month-long course) certifications. Several of our instructors work full or part time as medical professionals. Even with this knowledge, it is important to brush up on our skills often and make sure our patient care protocols are committed to muscle memory. At winter training, Owens from GEM led us through scenarios involving several ailments, ranging from low-level injuries like sprained ankles to true emergencies like anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction).
Familiarity with our medical skills is even more important when there are multiple patients. With large class sizes, there can be several students who require attention on a program, either for small needs like using their inhaler or asking for a bandaid, or larger situations like experiencing anxiety at night or dealing with cold feet while snowshoeing. As a team in training, we practiced managing care of multiple patients at the same time. In these situations, it’s more important than ever to communicate clearly and to delegate responsibilities across the team.
Instructors learned about the latest research in wilderness medicine and patient care, such as updated medication administration protocols and new first aid handbooks we can take into the field with us. To finish, we debriefed as a collective as to how we can integrate our critical takeaways into our practice.
Cottonwood Institute is committed to constant learning to better support our students, and we’re grateful to the staff at Global Emergency Medics for providing such a great space to keep our risk management skills sharp! Visit their website to see when they are offering their next wilderness medicine course so you can up your outdoors game, too.