Posted on November 19th 2018 by Jason Rawles
I’m sat reflecting on a course I’ve just completed. As you’ll probably know I run expeditions and various skills courses in the UK and across the globe. It’s paramount that I’m always in a position to deliver my best and this includes medical support for those who trust in me and also, the people in the places we go. The moral responsibility to help where I can to people who may need it.
Wilderness Emergency Medical Services Institute (WEMSI) International are a not-for-profit organisation run by volunteers who dedicate their time and skills to helping people build their medical confidence and competence in the wilderness environment. I attended the highly intensive Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician course (WEMT) which is also accredited by the Faculty of Pre-Hospital Care of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Cool eh?!
This course is for people who are already involved in some kind of medical practition in remote or wilderness environments. So even before booking I had to demonstrate that there was a level of competence to make the most from it all.
We were based at Glenmore Lodge in the Cairngorms. My first time there. What an awesome place to be. Great location, superb room, awesome food and always friendly staff to help out. Special mention for a cracking bar with a great selection of whiskies!!!!
We started on Sunday evening and ran until 10:00 the following Sunday. Each day started at around 08:00 and officially finished at 21:30 but generally ended up in the bar. It was always funny seeing other people in the bar as we took each others blood pressures and put on traction splints and tourniquets!
Every day we spent time outdoors working through various scenarios and boy, did they ramp up the intensity. We would have classroom learning, with practical application then head outside where we had AMAZING ‘casualties’ who played their part to make each scenario real. When I say real, I really do mean real. They scream, cry, push you around, swear, shout and let you know if you’re doing stuff wrong. It’s hard to really explain how real it is but when you do the course, you’ll know!!!!!
We also split in to teams so we could revolve through the various roles needed to manage, deal with and sort out medical and trauma situations in the outdoors. I was put in to Team 5 made up of Rachel, Paul, Chris, Laurie and myself. We gelled from the beginning and became a really slick unit even if I say so myself!
The last big day was a full on major incident exercise which really stretched our thinking and capabilities! It was fun but challenging and lasted about 6hrs. Our team dealt with a double femur fracture (including improvising a splint out of a walking pole), a ‘death’ and a bothersome bystander who wanted to help! There was also an explosion, deaths, amputations, breaks, bumps, CPR and a stretcher carry down a nasty heather slope. All of it an exercise and the volunteer casualties were amazing!
I’m proud to have passed, really proud.
While you may not feel it, there is a structure and a really great one at that. The learning is intense and full on at a relentless pace. Only when you get to Thursday will you see how it’s been organised and hangs together. I won’t lie, mid-week, I had a wobble. I’m going to call it the MWW….the Mid-Week Wobble! I spoke with Robin the Course Director and Alison who was Team 5 (THE BEST TEAM) mentor and they assured me it was normal and to trust it would come together.
Some external influences also caught some of my emotional flack. I took myself away, had a word, and agreed to myself that I’d trust the people I trust (that includes Robin and Alison), and crack on.
It did. They were right. Thank you to those who kept me emotionally patched up.
Quite a lot of aspects of the learning itself I’d covered before but only quickly. This course not only strongly reinforces the skills but teaches you how to run through a plan to get on top of an appropriate fix or diagnosis plan. We have to think that rescue or casualty transport may be a while away so have to be able to keep our heads on a swivel, act fast and appropriately, and make great decisions on behalf of a person who may not be able to.
This course teaches you how to be a thinking medical practitioner in high stress situations that need a cool head in wildly dynamic situations.
If you’d have told me at the start of the course, that I could do what I could do at the end, I’d have laughed and told you to bugger off!
The learning was amazing. It really was. However, the thing that really made it for me was the quality of the faculty delivering the course and guess what, they’re volunteers! Yeah, volunteers!! There was an amazing breadth and depth of skills, experience and willingness to share with us. It was truly humbling. We literally had the best in the world spending time with us to help us to be our best.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank them all, for everything they did from preventing my wobble from going out of control to discussions about clinical guidelines. Legends. All of them.
Literally don’t know where to start with this…
I was part of Team 5 for the duration of the course and I genuinely have some kind of separation anxiety now I’m home! The intensity by which we learnt, ran scenarios and was assessed is hard to describe. Not only were Team 5 awesome but the rest of the group too. We bonded over beers and whisky and shared the experiences of the intensity by which we were learning.
I’ve made so many new friends. It rocks my world to have such amazingness in my life. You’ll know how I value people in my little ecosystem and it’s always people that stop my world from spinning out of it’s orbit.
The reality is that this level of intensity will take a little time to reflect on and that’s okay. For anything like this it’s also a good time to review other aspects such as my personal responses to stress situations and how I talk to myself in my head. As well as things like the processes around what I do, the kit I carry and how I can create good, repeatable decisions in the places that I go along with the right levels of governance.
I also feel a deep love for the WEMSI family and want to help in some way. Watch this space about this as there are some thoughts floating around.
In closing though, I’ve had the best time on this course. I could not recommend it any higher than I do if you’re a practitioner who is responsible for providing medical and trauma pre-hospital care in remote or austere environments.
It’s intense but rewarding. You’ll learn more than you could think because even if you have the skills you’ll get to refine and apply them in scenarios and situations that demand you’re more than just a ‘doer of a thing’ but a thinking practitioner within a dynamic scenario.
Get booked on…