Training for medical personnel who would like to enhance their skills and experience for use in the rural, wilderness, and technical rescue setting. 

The WEMS Upgrade course trains medical professionals to apply scientific knowledge consistent with their scope of practice to patient care in wilderness and remote settings. Participants in this course generally include Advanced Practice Providers, Registered Nurses, EMS personnel certified at a level of EMT and higher, search and rescue medical leaders and physician sponsors, expedition medics, DMAT team members, and military medics. The course focuses on helping providers determine what areas of their scope of practice are effective in pre-hospital wilderness and remote settings. As enrollment permits, interdisciplinary providers are intentionally mixed during performance tasks to promote future collaboration in remote emergency settings. Learning outcomes are accomplished through pre-course self-study, lecture, facilitated discussion, patient assessment drills, and skills labs. Content and context are synthesized through progressive scenario simulations requiring treatment, formulation of evacuation plans, and coordination of a variety of emergency resources and personnel.

Prior to enrolling in a course, please review our Functional Position Description. The criteria set forth in this document allows students to self-assess their ability to meet the demands of both a WMAI course as well as the demands of a certified wilderness medical provider in the field.


Course Content

This program is continuously revised and updated by Wilderness Medical Associates International. The course and schedule are flexible enough to be adapted to specific groups and goals while still meeting the requirements of the core curriculum. Specialist instructors are available in marine medicine, combat medicine, technical rescue, and expedition and remote site service.

Day 1 – 10.5 hours
Logistics and Introduction; General Concepts; Patient Assessment System; Critical Body Systems Review; PAS/SOAP Practice; Spine Injury Assessment; Medical/Legal Issues

Day 2 – 9 hours
Test I/Review; Anaphylaxis and Asthma; ALS/BLS Appropriate Technology; Lifting, Moving, Extrication; Litter Packaging and Carries; Scenarios I

Day 3 – 8.5 hours
Test II/Review; Pain Management; Soft Tissue Injury; Wound Cleaning and Exploration; Musculoskeletal Injuries; Extremity Splinting, Dislocations; Scenarios II

Day 4 – 9 hours
Test III/Review; Environmental Medicine; Scenarios III; Search and Rescue; SAR Exercise

Day 5 – 8 hours
SAR Exercise Debrief; Expedition Medicine; Scenarios IV; Medical Kits and Medications; Test IV and Course Debrief


Certification as a Wilderness EMS is valid for three years and is contingent on current regional or national registration as an EMS provider such as a EMT or paramedic. CPR recertification can be added by request and at the discretion of the instructor.

Included Materials

All published teaching materials are produced and provided by Wilderness Medical Associates International at no additional cost. Students will receive the following textbooks and notes on course:

  • The Field Guide of Wilderness & Rescue Medicine
  • Wilderness and Rescue Medicine: A  Practical Guide for the Basic and Advanced Practitioner
  • Wilderness First Responder Class Notes
  • Wilderness Medicine Workbook
  • SOAP Notebook

Continuing Education Credits

This course has been approved for Fellowship in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM) for 38 credits through the Wilderness Medical Society. Actual credits awarded depend on personal credit needs and history.

The course is registered for 45 hours of continuing education credit through the CAPCE.

Most WEMS Upgrade courses are approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider # CEP17692, for 45 contact hours. View the specific course you wish to attend to confirm eligibility.


WMA International will supply a general list of equipment to be obtained for training by the sponsor or course host. We also invite sponsors or hosts to include any gear that is specific to their staff and mission. Specialist instructors may bring additional material following consultation with the sponsor.


Successful completion with certification is based on 100% attendance, satisfactory performance on homework assignments and written quizzes, demonstrated proficiency with practical skills and a grade of 80% or better on final written exam. Wilderness Medical Associates International is committed to making reasonable accommodation to any student with special needs.


Current EMS or other professional medical certification is required.

Students must be at least eighteen years old to participate in this course.

Bring appropriate clothing for the location and time of year. Remember that, rain or shine, much of our time is spent outside. You will also need pens, a notebook, and a watch with a second hand.  Review the Student Handbook for more comprehensive information on what to bring and how to prepare for a course.