A Review: SOLO Wilderness First Responder

SOLO’s front door

As I mentioned in my last post, I completed a Wilderness First Responder course at the SOLO Wilderness Medicine School in Conway, NH between December 31st and January 10th.  I wanted to use my blog as a general shout out and as a review of the course.

Before January, I have been certified in Wilderness First Aid also through SOLO.  However, for  professional development, I felt I needed a WFR.  Not to mention, I definitely needed a refresher in my first aid skills, as I haven’t had the need to use them all that much over the past two years, thankfully.  This was going to be my first time taking a course at the SOLO campus.

Before I even arrived, I was impressed by their office staff’s professionalism and punctuality. We had been communicating regularly in the time leading up to the course, getting paperwork, money, and supplies squared away.  They did a great job, were extremely polite and helpful, and definitely helped me feel good about going into the course with SOLO.

Upon arrival, it was clear we had a pretty varied group of folks.  There were people from New England, Missouri, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, and even Italy.  Some people had no medical backgrounds, some were already EMTs, some were college students, some were unemployed, and some were great professionals, working for hospitals, schools, and even park rangers.  As SOLO really tries to foster a sense of community by interactive lessons and group contribution to facility upkeep, I knew this would be a great chance to meet some awesome new people.  I wasn’t let down.  Most of us lived in the bunkhouse together, and ate the provided meals together (on campus is a great option!).

a hypothermia wrap - the human burrito
a hypothermia wrap – the human burrito

The best part about the SOLO WFR course was the instruction and course curriculum.  Our instructor was Josh, who also happened to be my WFA instructor two years ago.  Josh is a WEMT, local firefighter and ambulance EMT, and a member of the Conway Mountain Rescue

 fake fib-tib fracture
Pepper’s fake fib-tib fracture

Service.  As soon as you meet him, you can tell he knows his stuff.  Despite his young age of 30, it is clear he has seen just about every medical emergency in the field.  This intensive experience, coupled with Josh’s gregarious personality and clear lecturing style, makes him a phenomenal instructor.  The course material includes everything from your basic ways to check vital signs, musculoskeletal injuries, chest and head trauma, environmental emergencies (i.e. hypothermia), shelter building and improvised litter building, and more!  I felt the curriculum was very comprehensive, and provided me with a wealth of knowledge to deal with most of the common emergencies seen in the backcountry.  Their integrated use of lecture and practical outdoor skills sessions creates a well rounded learning opportunity.  Additionally, SOLO really focuses on teaching fundamental skills and situational awareness, so that if the responder is thrown into a situation where he/she is ill-equipped, they will be able to draw upon the basics to create an improvised treatment, piece of equipment, or plan.  Let’s be honest, sterilized classroom scenarios will never prepare you for a real emergency, but having a strong command of medical/backcountry fundamentals will allow you to adapt to different scenarios as needed.  I find this part of their teaching to be particularly effective.

a Gamow pressure bag, for treating high altitude sicknesses
a Gamow pressure bag, for treating high altitude sicknesses – instructor Josh in the ballcap and red/black outerwear

This 10 day course was well run, highly informative, practical, and most importantly, fun!  In fact, I found it to be more useful and enjoyable than the WFA, as the extended course length allows the material to come at you a little slower.  It is easier to absorb, in my opinion, than the amount of material packed into just a two day WFA.  In my two experiences with SOLO, I have been extremely impressed and satisfied.  If you ever find yourself interested in acquiring a wilderness medicine certification of any level, I highly recommend you consider SOLO.  They will not disappoint you.

An added bonus?  At the end of the course, you get to take home some goodies.  For WFR, this includes your text book from which you can always review, a SOLO patch with a WFR base, travel mug, a sticker, and your certification cards.  For WEMT, you get even more, including a med-kit.

Check out their website!  You can find scheduling and pricing information there.  http://www.soloschools.com/

If you can’t make it to New Hampshire, they teach courses all over the country at different venues like college campuses, and have stations in Colorado and SOLO Southeast (Bryson City, NC).

practice litter carry out
practice litter carry out
splinting practice, including lower leg and c-spine
splinting practice, including lower leg and c-spine

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