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How I Became a Wilderness First Responder

Hello! Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jesse Cox and I am a senior studying Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management with a concentration in Parks and Natural Resource Recreation. After my time here at NC State, I hope to be employed in either an outdoor recreation trip leading position or as a Park Ranger managing outdoor recreation areas. I love recreation in the outdoors, where I enjoy hiking, camping, mountain biking, rock climbing, paddling, and backpacking! These activities do have the potential for risky or dangerous situations, so it is always a good idea to be prepared to respond to emergencies.

The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) is an industry recognized leader in backcountry instruction and leadership as well as wilderness medicine. The NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute offers various medical training courses and certifications ranging from two day first aid courses to months long emergency medical technician training. Over Spring Break of 2018, I completed the Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course. This 9 day course covers patient assessments, injury, environmental, mental health, common wilderness medical problems, and topics on leadership and decision making. Each of these topics included hands on role-playing of medical emergencies and feedback. The scenarios occurred outdoors, rain or shine, and students wore make-up and acted to simulate injuries.

I got to learn some out-of-the-box treatments and ways to stabilize injuries using items that you would have with you while enjoying the great outdoors. I also became certified in Adult and Child CPR and Epinephrine Injection, which will be good certifications to include on a resume! Beyond just gaining medical knowledge, this course helped me prepare to lead others and react calmly and effectively in emergency situations. I gained experience directly working with over twenty other students with varying knowledge bases and experience in outdoor recreation. By the end of the course, I had worked with each one of them and was able to adapt my own skills when leading or quickly adjust when performing a support role to accomplish the task at hand. This experience will prepare me for the future when working with coworkers and members of the public. In fact, shortly after the course, I witnessed a motor vehicle accident and was able to direct other people to call for help while providing care to the patient before EMS personnel arrived at the accident scene. I credit taking the WFR course for being able to spring into action!

Overall, this was an excellent learning experience. It enhanced my knowledge, confidence in working with others, networking opportunities, and my marketability to future employers. Through the course I met some great people that have become friends and climbing partners! It is a course that I’d recommend to fellow students that enjoy recreating or wish to work in the backcountry, and I encourage other students to seek out opportunities such as this. They will change you for the better!