Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

With all of our diving, cycling, sailing, and being far from medical assistance, it seems prudent to take a NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class we saw offered by REI Co-op. So, we did!

We tried to sign up last year, but the highly-desired classes, offered through our local REI Co-op, fill so quickly. This year we were even more eager getting reservations. We lucked out on a Black Friday Thanksgiving-time sale, and bagged two spots.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

What to Expect

When we arrived, we weren’t really sure what to expect. The classes were at the Napolean Bonaparte Broward House in Jacksonville on Hecksher Drive. We parked near the water, under beautiful oak trees with flowing Spanish moss.

It looked like everyone was wearing REI Co-op or other fashionable outdoor adventure clothing, which we expected. Seemingly everyone wore hiking boots. We arrived in what we wear to go sailing or hiking. Nothing fancy. Everyone seemed to have a water bottle, and most had notepads with them. NOLS Wilderness First Aid was about to begin!

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Day 1

The instructors organized us in seats in a semi circle two rows deep, about 12 people in each row. First the NOLS instructors Sarah and Peter introduced themselves, and then had us introduce ourselves.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Very Savvy Crowd

Right away, we can tell the NOLS Wilderness First Aid class was full of people who do a lot of hiking. They kept throwing around the names of trails like “AT” and “PCT” lucky for us, I had no idea what that meant. Otherwise, I might’ve been pretty darn intimidated.

There were some people who had medical training like a nurse, and EMT, and some people who were re-certifying their own NOLS leadership training certifications. That was intimidating enough!

Our trainers, Sarah and Peter, had flown across the country to teach this course. Everyone seemed brimming with certifications and experience.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Scaffolding Lessons

We quickly grasped that the class would be held in segments, a bit of training in the classroom, then head outdoors to practice what we had learned.

Bill and I attended a class in defense of shooting similar to this a couple years ago, so we realized that each step would be built upon, and we better learn fast. So, I took thorough notes, which I would later transcribe to keep them fresh in my head.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Initial Assessment Training

First we learned what to do when we first come across someone who is injured. We learned how to make the initial assessment to determine if there was something that was going to kill them in the next minute or two. The main concerns here were breathing, bleeding, and circulation.

Skipping ahead, by the end of the second day of the NOLS Wilderness First Aid class, we were able to come across someone and narrow down to their malady with several direct questions.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Questioning Techniques

It was like the game with the little ball. You think of something in your head, and the ball device has 20 questions to ask you. In the end, it pops up with your answer after asking you only 20 questions.

One one of our initial evaluations and assessments, we were to ask if the person had anything in their mouth due to a fall. I confidently began questioning, “Do you have anything in your mouth? That doesn’t belong there? Loose teeth? Food? Retainer?”

My teammates dissolved into laughter. I guess it was just the question to make someone take note of what might constitute a foreign object. And, I reminded them – lots of adults have invisible braces these days! The questioning I enjoyed because it was intriguing to question for a purpose, to discover wounds or injuries that might not otherwise be noticed.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Class Rhythm

What the class was like was actually what we thought it would be like: classroom learning and hands-on. I was amazed at how quickly we picked up what questions to ask, in what order, and what to look for when performing assessments.

After everyone mastered the initial check for blood, breathing, and consciousness, we moved onto checking the full body for any other hidden problems or unnoticed problems. Then we learned how to assess a multitude of factors to narrow down to a specific illness melody or problem.

Over and over, we repeated the procedure. First, classroom instruction, then refer to notes. Rehearse new skill, then prepare for the unknown situation. Next divide into teams of patients and bystanders, then evaluate.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op
Everyone wearing their REI Co-op clothes for the class!

Wound Search

As the NOLS Wilderness First Aid class progressed, the real life scenarios became more and more intense. Sometimes our patient could not speak to us, and we had to figure out what was wrong with them. We had to be extremely thorough and not miss a step because they might have a hidden theatrical wound.

Next, with no description of the event from the patient, we had to find their wound. From the scenario, we knew they probably had a wound somewhere but were too shocked or too cold to realize where it was.

During one of my evaluations, I think the trainer was secretly laughing because my comment was, “Oh my goodness, this is quite the bruise. Are you taking aspirin or blood thinners because this bruise came up awfully quickly.” Actually, it was due to the make up that they used to simulate bruises.

The fake bruises were so good that they appeared to be a couple days old, nasty red and purple. It was very rewarding when you found one, but then you had to keep looking because maybe there was a second or even third injury that could not be overlooked. It was great training at being thorough.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

NOLS Mantra

One of the most difficult parts was the NOLS mantra, that each and every patient deserves a complete and thorough examination. Even if you think you have already nailed down the problem, you have to check everything every time to make sure there wasn’t a single detail missed.

Sometimes my team missed something, and sometimes we caught something the other teams did not catch. It all led to learning that the complete and thorough examination was the only way to proceed.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Realistic Scenarios

One of the scenarios involved supposedly be cracked in the head with the carabiner while trying to hoist a “bear bag” into a tree. The make up our faces was pretty gruesome, and the trainer even cautioned us not to show up at dinner looking like that!

I took a few pictures of ourselves, then cleaned up and enjoyed a good dinner on the water at the Sandollar which is right next-door to our Airbnb.

We actually brought our notes to the table, reviewed the hierarchy and procedures, and speculated on what we would learn next.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Day Two

On day two, there were a couple pretty tough scenarios and then the course eases in to a lot of the first aid and splinting and injury evaluations.

In one of the scenarios, we had supposedly contracted altitude sickness. Interestingly enough, my rescuer was a park ranger at Fort Matanzas who had worked in Colorado and diagnosed it almost immediately.

For all of us flatlanders… It’s probably not the first thing we would’ve thought of, lying under the oak trees draped in Spanish moss in Northeast Florida. My rescuer sure caught on to the symptoms quickly, though!

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Rescue Procedures

In one of the NOLS Wilderness First Aid class scenarios, we were not told what was wrong with us, only to lie down and not speak. It was up to our rescue were to valuate us. Our only instruction was to make a little coughing noise if they left us to go ask for help without leaving us in the “recovery position.”

My rescuer could not figure out what was wrong with me, and was about to leave me alone. So, I had to make the coughing noise so she would not leave me on my back. That reminded her to put me in the rescue position so I would not suffocate if I threw up.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Additional Situations

We learned how to deal with hypothermia, we learned how to move people, we thought through improvised splints, but my favorite was learning how to use the cravat.

We have two or three cravats in each of our medical kits, and I was excited to finally learn how best to use them.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Confidence Boost

I learned that in the past, before this NOLS Wilderness First Aid class, every time I needed to help someone, I had instinctively done the right thing, which was to ask a lot of questions. That was very powerful to gain that confidence in my abilities with the affirmation I was naturally doing the right thing.

The class was unbelievably useful. Unbelievably. I cannot tell you how comprehensive it is, how in depth it is. I feel confident that I can walk up to a patient, assist them, and administer far more than first aid on the spot.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Tourniquets and Wound Dressing

The only portion of the class that was possibly glossed over was tourniquets. I was dissatisfied as how little time was spent on them, recognizing counterfeits, use, staging, and so on. But, that could be an entire class in itself. So, hey – that’s what Crisis Medicine is for – bleeding control training. My code “DeepWH” will save you 20% off the Tactical Casualty Care Training online, which will fill in all the gaps on tourniquets.

Wound dressings were covered in significant depth, and I learned more than I could believe I would learn. The volume of information conveyed was impressive.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

The realization that you know how to clean and dress a wound yourself is surprising. Or, it was to me, at least. Wounds that I would have thought warranted an immediate trip to the ER/ED were calmly diagnosed, discussed, demonstrated, and dressed.

This was one of the best parts of the NOLS Wilderness First Aid class. I keep my notes on this in my phone in case I need them myself.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

My Favorite Part – Cravats!

For some reason, my favorite part of the NOLS course was the section on tying cravats. I have three in my classroom bag, a couple in my range bag. However, if I had to use one, I’d probably need to try to decipher the drawings on the packages.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

We learned how to tie a small knot in one corner, and use the rest for a sling. Then we learned how to use a second cravat to immobilize whatever is being supported in the first.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Learner Roles

Our group of 24 or so people divided into groups of three. Out of those three, one would serve as patient and two would service as rescuers. The roles rotated with every scenario. You had enough chances to serve as either patient rescue for many repeats.

Playing the role of the patient was interesting. Though you might be tempted to prompt or help your teammates discover what was “wrong” with you, you couldn’t. It also was difficult to not help them through the parts you were more familiar with.

While serving as rescuer, most were rather nervous about asking the right questions in the right order. Sometimes the patient would accidentally prompt you quietly in a whisper. “I fell out of a tree, remember?”

Different people on each team possessed various levels of understanding on each skill. The repetition of scenarios allowed everyone to practice each segment of learning many times. In fact, we went back over everything each night ourselves!

The NOLS Wilderness First Aid instructors circulated during the scenarios and offered suggestions, technique support, and even gentle reminders of best practices.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Why Take This Class?

I would highly encourage anyone to take the NOLS Wilderness First Aid class. Not just people who hike. Funny, I was only one of two sailors in the whole group. But anyone and everyone should take this course. Wilderness First Aid goes far more in depth than a first aid class.

The wound management section alone could help keep you or a loved one out of an unnecessary trip to the emergency department or emergency room.

Having the ability to determine what might be wrong with someone is invaluable. If you do anything other than stay at home, the skills this course enables you to learn are so valuable.

Knowing exactly what actions to take if someone is injured, bleeding or bruised, has broken bones, or something that you can’t see is priceless. The ability to determine if there is a problem the spine is a relief.

Though the price of the NOLS Wilderness First Aid course may seem high; the volume of information and training you receive is incalculable. It’s also probably half the cost of my incredibly low insurance deductible!

Good investment in myself, and hopefully won’t be used to benefit my friends or family. However, if something happens, the NOLS Wilderness First Aid class sure has added to my wilderness survival knowledge.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Where We Stayed and Ate

Once we booked the NOLS Wilderness First Aid class, I immediately went online to Airbnb to find somewhere in the area to stay. The classes start to at 8:00 a.m., and we live about two hours’ drive away. So, we wanted to stay close to the class location.

There aren’t any hotels in the area, everything on the military base was already booked, but I found one single Airbnb. Directly across the street from the Napolean Bonaparte Broward House where the classes would be held. Plus, waterfront view of the Mayport inlet. Jackpot!

Ok, so, here are two Airbnb discount codes. Try either one! The offerings from Airbnb change every couple months, so use whichever gives you the best deal. You can only use a code one time, so compare, choose whichever gives you the best deal since they change periodically, and make it count!

As of today, this one, Airbnb says, “Kimberly gave you up to $55 off your first trip.” Friends who sign up for Airbnb with my link will get $40 off their home booking. And they get $15 to use toward an experience worth $50 or more.

Also today, this one, Airbnb says, “Deep gave you up to $415 off your first adventure. I’m ready to book from this one right now! I’m thinking it’s a computer glitch – so jump on it fast!

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

In addition, I could tell that the Airbnb was going to be awesome because it was eclectic, directly on the river where we can watch ships go by, had a kitchen, and a kayak launch. Things could not get any better. Perfectly suited for us. Our Waterfront Airbnb was great – follow that link for discount codes and link to the unusual property.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

For meals, we brought our own food except for one treat; dinner out at the Sand Dollar just a short walk away. Generous drinks, large portions, and spectacular views of the inlet and shipping traffic are a pretty good draw.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Training for Life’s Experiences

Bill and I are both thankful we took the Crisis Medicine Tactical Casualty Care Course with code “DeepWH” you save 20% on the TC2 course, which I highly recommend. Having that experience under our belt before the NOLS class gave us a solid foundation.

Purchase tourniquets from reputable companies, like North American Rescue. You can get the CAT tourniquets we keep close-by in the Bleeding Control Kits we carry. Use code “MAY25” for 20% off all community preparedness products through midnight on 5/31/20. This is a huge savings; so take advantage!

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Bleeding Control Kits

MyMedic also features Individual Bleeding Control Kits, this link and my code “KimW” will save you 10% on your purchase. You should bring one everywhere! We do… It’s better to be prepared than to be unprepared. You can spot our kits sometimes in our videos and photos – either strapped to a vehicle headrest, or lying close by within arm’s reach.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

Don’t Forget Your Sunscreen!

All products that touch your body work their way into our rivers, streams, lakes and oceans. Many vacation destinations will not allow toxic sunscreens; use the only one tested and proven reef safe.

Use my code “DeepWH” for 10% off at Stream2Sea on SPF 20 or 30 mineral, regular or tinted sunscreen, mask defog, shampoo, conditioner, rash guards and more reef-safe supplies. This season, they have added hand sanitizer (no discount – it’s paying the bills) to their line! Order fast! • AD: affiliate links used.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

What to read next:

Thanks for reading – check out REI Co-op for some really great outdoors equipment and clothing. We just got a PFD for Bill there for kayaking.

Searching for Salt Creek // Shell Bluff Park Bunnell Florida // Kayaking Crescent Lake

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Rainy Day Workout Ideas – My Morning With the Cycling Trainer and Vanderkitten Kit

NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid class, Our NOLS Wilderness Medicine First Aid Class Experience Thru REI Co-op

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