I’m excited and proud to say that I recently passed the certification for my Wilderness First Responder! I now have the credentials I need to be a lead guide almost anywhere I want. That being said, it isn’t super simple to do. Here’s what you need to know if you’re interested in going for it yourself.
1. You need to plan ahead. It can be hard to find a training location that is convenient for you, depending on where you live. Some areas definitely offer more options than others. You might have to make a trip of it, which means that you’ll have to figure out your travel plans and possibly also accommodations. Different courses have different options as far as lodging is concerned.
2. It’s best to sign up for the course early. This way you can get started on any pre-course studying that might be required, as well as ensure that you get a spot in the class. If the class does not have enough students by 30 days prior to the start date, there is the danger that it will be cancelled. Help alleviate that possibility by making sure you’re registered well before that time marker.
3. There are a couple different course options. While the Wilderness First Responder certification course is traditionally an 8-day program with 80 hours of coursework, some adjustments have recently been made to accommodate those who might not be able to take that much time out of their daily lives. I chose the shortened 5-day option with 25 hours of coursework that I had to complete prior to the course itself.
4. Know that the 5-day course is by no means easier. Honestly, if I could do it over again, I might actually try to complete the 8-day option instead. It was difficult to cram all that information in before actually applying any of it, especially because I am a visual and hands-on learner. I would’ve appreciated more evenings of study time, more time to focus on each specific section, and more time spent on scenarios and hands-on practice. I passed, but I feel like I could have done much better.
5. It is a whole lot of information. It can be rather overwhelming, especially if you’re like me and have no medical background. I had to try to wrap my head around how the entire body functions and works together in the first place. That was perhaps the toughest part. Understanding why certain injuries affect other functions the way they do did not come naturally to me, and I feel like I could definitely stand to take the entire course over again if I really wanted to know my stuff.
6. There is no time for anything else. I spent the majority of my free time in the weeks leading up to the course studying the pre-course materials. Once I was there, I didn’t even want to go out to eat with my classmates – there was too much to be done. The actual indoor/outdoor classroom days were ten to eleven hours in length, and then there was studying and homework to do in the evening. Know that it will be a full commitment.
7. Passing takes a multitude of different skills. Successful mastery of the coursework requires much more than the ability to study well and answer questions on a written test. My classmates and I had to demonstrate using all of our acquired knowledge and skills in real-life situations, applying creative thinking and deductive reasoning under heavy time constraints and in the midst of high-stress environments. It’s a lot!
8. It isn’t cheap and there aren’t a lot of companies that offer it. There are two main groups that offer the course: NOLS and Wilderness Medical Associates. Both offer courses internationally but the majority of them are based in the states. They use smaller local companies to facilitate the trainings. NOLS does not offer the 5-day program, which is good to know going in if you are short on time. The course price ranges but expect to pay at least $600 and more like $650-800, usually not including lodging and meals. There are courses that do have the option to include them, but of course they are pricier.