More Practical Empowerment: Wilderness First Aid Training

Paula on the SceneLast weekend I had the chance to take a 20 hour course in Wilderness First Aid and CPR through offered by the Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). If that sentence of acronyms is any indication to you, I can tell you the weekend was long, intense, hands-on, and an awesome experience.

Kim and I spend a lot of time outdoors in all seasons — biking, hiking, paddling, and taking on whatever adventures we can find when we travel. Often we engage in these activities as a pair without any organized group or trip leader. We’ve hiked up to around 9,000 feet on Mount Rainier, paddled 18 miles round trip on Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park, and hiked the famed Angels Landing Trail in Zion (which I wrote about and was published) just the two of us. And that’s just three that pop to the top of my head as I type. The list could go on and on. While we don’t typically do overnight trips (yet! but I will break through that barrier if I have to hire my wilderness friend to help me!) it is not uncommon for us to be out and about anywhere from a few hours to an entire day. So, what if something happens to one of us or we encounter someone in trouble?

That has always been a BIG What If? I had always wanted to take a WFA course for this very reason and luckily my friend Liz happened to arrange one locally, the stars aligned, and we got to participate with the best group of people you’d want to share an experiential class with. Brett Simpson was our instructor and he was great. Blending real world experience with teaching and an emphasis on the practical he managed to keep us all alert, engaged, and learning for what was a very intense weekend. (think – 20 hours of training in 2 days and that doesn’t include breaks, lunch or travel to/from the classroom…your mind begins to melt.)

The class is not just a lecture but true hands on scenarios which were practical and applicable Another WFA Scenariowhether you hike in remote back country or simply like to exercise in the local park. Scenarios came complete with professional stage makeup (man that stuff is amazingly real!) so we had people badly bruised, oozing, bleeding, burned, and ranging from screaming to unresponsive. I have to tell you scenario or not there were moments that definitely can unnerve you. But the great thing is you walk away empowered having stepped outside of your comfort zone and armed yourself with knowledge and a proven system to follow.

This experience along with my recent Habitat for Humanity experience got me thinking about what I like to call practical empowerment. It is not about knowing it all or being an expert. It is about being able to feel confident that you can handle anything that comes your way. Now in this example that doesn’t mean that I, as someone who has had a weekend of medical training, can handle anything imaginable. Heck no! What it does mean is that I know enough to be able to do my very best to be of help to the best of my skills and ability and then choose a sensible plan of action to get someone the full and proper help they need. This might also mean at times doing your best and not having things work out. Then it is back to the course of Planting Acceptance I wrote about before.

At the end of the day I see practical empowerment as a great excuse buster. As in – what’s your excuse for not getting out and about now? Your mind might say “what if” or as one of our participants said – “I’m just staying in camp- it’s too dangerous out there”. Yet, the truth is a tremendous amount of serious accidents and fatalities happen right at home. So that sort of busts the myth that locking yourself in your house and staying there is “safe”, right?!

The excuses that you use for holding yourself back might have nothing to do with the outdoors. It might relate to creative expression through art, getting up and speaking in front of a group, or even just allowing yourself some free time. The philosophy is the same – give yourself some practical empowerment, grant yourself permission, and give it a shot. What do you have to lose?

Photo Credits: All photos taken by Brett Simpson.

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