Wilderness First Responder (WFR): Backcountry medical skills you hope to never need
Seventeen Colorado Mountain College Leadville students can now add a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification to their outdoor resumes. Roger Coit, an experienced Outdoor and Emergency Services professor at Colorado Mountain College, led the 8-day intensive outdoor based course. Students ranged in age from 18-25 and were primarily full-time students in the Outdoor Studies program, though a few students took the certification course independently.
“The Wilderness First Responder course was split evenly between indoor lectures and outdoor skills practice,” says Codi Williams, a 21-year-old Outdoor Recreation Leadership student originally from Seattle, “When we were practicing skills we were outside. When we were learning or discussing skills it was in the classroom.”
WFR provides students with skills and emergency medical care techniques used by guides, trip leaders and others who provide primary care in backcountry setting. They are taught to analyze and anticipate emergency medical situations and have the skills to respond correctly to medical trauma in the wilderness. Upon successful completion of the course, students receive a national certification from the Wilderness First Responder (WFR) Association.
“The most useful skill I gained in the WFR course was being able to identify potential issues before they become problems,” says Codi, “It makes me more aware of things that could go wrong.”
While hiking up a 13,000′ ridge on a recent Mountain Orientation course, Codi found himself paying more attention to symptoms of altitude sickness like headaches, dizziness and dehydration. Anticipating problems like altitude sickness on a high elevation hike can help prevent emergency situations from escalating into potentially dangerous circumstances.
Codi has worked at Camp Waskowitz, an outdoor education summer camp for middle-school aged boys and girls, for three years. He began volunteering at the camp as a high school senior to fulfill community service hours for graduation. It was this experience, discovering nature and the outdoors through the eyes of 5th and 6th graders, that helped shape his professional path and encouraged him to pursue an outdoor degree at Colorado Mountain College. Codi hopes to apply his newly acquired certifications in future outdoor leadership roles.
“I hope to not have to use the WFR skills in an emergency,” says Codi, “but I’m grateful to have the certification and the confidence to deal with those situations if they come up.”
The Wilderness First Responder course at Colorado Mountain College is taught by Roger Coit, whose experience and education in both outdoor skills and emergency medicine make him extremely qualified for this position. Since 2009, Roger Coit has been a faculty member of Colorado Mountain College in Leadville instructing EMS and Outdoor Studies courses. Prior to becoming a full-time faculty member, he taught as an adjunct instructor for the college since 1998, leading courses in avalanche safety, wilderness medicine, and urban EMS. From 2003 – 2011, Roger worked as a paramedic and Deputy Director for Summit County EMS, and he now works as a part-time Paramedic in Chaffee County, Colorado. Roger has significant wilderness rescue experience and has been a lead instructor for Wilderness Medical Associates since 1995. Additionally, he was the ski patrol assistant director and snow safety coordinator with Monarch Ski Area for ten years, from 1991 – 2001.