A Wilderness First Aid (WFA) Course is one of the most intensive first aid courses a person can attend. The course takes place over two days with 16 to 20 hours of instruction. WFA students are taught many of the basic life support concepts as taught in a 16-week emergency medical technician courses. WFA students learn the primary and secondary patient assessment, how to identify and treat patient injuries and illnesses, how to reduce and splint fractures and how to care for a patient for up to several days while awaiting rescue.
The WFA Certification course is serious. So much information is covered in such a short period of time that many students comment that attending a Wilderness First Aid course is like drinking from a fire hose and attempting not to drown.
When I was a WFA student, I spent most of the course heads-down, furiously writing notes. We sat for lectures and then immediately participated in scenarios switching off roles of playing patient and caregiver. My scribbled notes were used in the hands-on scenarios to practice what was just taught a few minutes prior. I felt rushed and overwhelmed. At the end of day one, my brain was fried.
At the end of day two, I graduated with a sense of accomplishment that successfully I earned my Wilderness First Aid certification, but I wondered how competent I was after two intensive days of training with no time to absorb what I learned. I began searching for a solution that will enable me to review, refresh and retain what I learned during the two-day class.
A few years prior to earning my WFA certification, I read Checklist Manifesto, by Dr. Atul Gawande. Checklist Manifesto is a book that details the use of checklists in healthcare. The author is a surgeon and he began experimenting with using checklists in hospitals. The results of his research were astonishing. Dr. Gawande found that for doctors and nurses that used checklists, the consistency of care improved to the point where the average length of patient stay in intensive care dropped by half. In another example where a hospital implemented a handwashing checklist and empowering any nurse from stopping a surgeon from treating a patient if they missed any items on the checklist, in just one year, the infection rate went from eleven percent to zero.
One of my favorite quotes from Checklist Manifesto –
“Whether running to the store to buy ingredients for a cake, preparing an airplane for takeoff, or evaluating a sick person in the hospital, if you miss just one key thing, you might as well not have made the effort at all.”
Gawande, Atul. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. London: Profile Books, 2011. Page 36.
Missing one step in the Patient Assessment may overlook bleeding the caregiver does not see. Not checking the airway correctly, missing checking for circulation in an extremity or not recognizing sepsis in a patient could result in negative patient outcomes and even death.
I was training to become a certified Wilderness First Aid instructor and part of the training involved attending the two-day WFA course six times over a four-month period. During this time of training, I converted the entire WFA course into approximately forty checklists.
I discovered that checklists have limitations as they do not illustrate decision flow and they do not function well when there are multiple decision points. In first aid, there are many decision points and these decision points add complexity to text-based checklists.
So, I went one step further and I converted my checklists to “medical algorithms.” You may not be familiar with medical algorithms, but they are used in healthcare to improve and standardize decisions made in the delivery of medical care. Medical algorithms assist in the selection and application of treatment.
I found that medical algorithms are able to reduce hundreds of pages of text into step-by-step checklists that are displayed in sequential order and include “yes-no” decision nodes that graphically illustrate the entire patient care process. Medical algorithms make refreshing our knowledge easier because each step of the patient care process is visually illustrated.
I created Wilderness First Aid medical algorithms to help me refresh my memory and stay current on my knowledge. I regularly reviewed the algorithms and it was not long until I achieved fluency in emergency first aid care. In 2019 I published these algorithms in my first book, Emergency First Aid Care Flow DIagrams – Wilderness First Aid Edition. My book became a standard handout to all of the students attending my WFA classes. I used the algorithms to teach each section of the WFA course and the benefits of using algorithms in my classes became evident.
Prior to implementing my book in WFA courses, the average final grade for a graduate was 88%. Since utilizing my book in class, the average grade improved to 97%. Students using the book demonstrated improved knowledge retention, higher hands-on skills assessment scores and a noticeable reduction in note-taking.
My education in emergency first aid did not end with my WFA certification. I went on to become a state-licensed Emergency Medical Technician, a National Registry Emergency Medical Technician, a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician and a Level II NFPA 1041 instructor. I am certified as a Wilderness First Aid Instructor and a Wilderness First Responder Instructor for the American Red Cross, American Safety and Health Institute and SOLO School of Wilderness Medicine.
My life passion is to train people with no medical background how they can render emergency first aid on an ill or injured person and save that person’s life.
Wilderness First Aid Made Easy will help you to remember the steps in patient assessment and care. During a Wilderness First Aid course, this book will reduce the time you spend taking notes and allow you to concentrate on the lectures. After earning your certification, this book will enable you to keep your knowledge fresh by serving you as an excellent review tool.
You can purchase both paperback and Kindle versions of the book here.