Is there a standard in wilderness medicine training?
Authors of an editorial and article that appeared in the Wilderness and Environmental Medicine Journal earlier this year (Vol 20, 106 and 113-117) argued that there is no standard in wilderness medicine training for outdoor educators. In addition, they suggested that organizations offering this training have curricula that are not evidenced-based and are quite possibly irrelevant to the true needs of their intended audiences. They characterized these training organizations as fractious and secretive (my selection of words). These suggestions and characterizations are misleading and inaccurate. I personally have an open and collegial relationship with the principles of a number of these organizations. We attend and present at some of the same conferences and regularly meet to discuss what we are doing and why. Anyone can see what we teach by buying our texts, reading our blog, listening to our conference presentations, and freely downloading articles and protocols from our web site. Over the years, these interactions have resulted in changes and upgrades for all of us. The competitive atmosphere of excellence has forced each of us to look carefully at what we teach and how we teach it. Being wrong and inept would result in marginalization as well as loss of business. Over the last several years these conversations have become more focused. The participants are highly experienced outdoor and educational professionals, some with long careers as outdoors medical practitioners. They work or manage training organizations who have taught over 150,000 WFA students since 2000. Through a collaborative effort with these peers, we hope to write Scope of Practice (SOP) documents to define the intended audience and what a person at different levels of training should be able to do and should not do in the field. Ultimately the signatories will publish them for public information and scrutiny. The first of these is a SOP for Wilderness First Aid (WFA). It will be discussed at this year’s American Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE) conference in Minneapolis and presented to the Wilderness Medical Society.