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Wilderness first aid: Lessons learned

By: Aaron Wolowiec | Feb, 2 2016
12633666_10156400281170524_7967074684603308971_oLook closely at the picture at left. Yes, that's a pig's foot. And, yes, I'm pulling a fish hook out of it MacGyver-style with a piece of rope. (By the way, if you noticed the fake blood near my eye and cheek - bonus points.) But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Day 1 of Wilderness First Aid. I'm still alive. Introductions, lecture and hands-on activities indoors. The real work (i.e., fake blood, outdoor simulations and pigs feet) begins tomorrow.
It started like any other professional development experience. Participants were eager to learn what they'd be doing for the next three days. Our instructor (a client and a friend) provided context. And we considered our relevant prior knowledge before turning in for the evening.
Day 2 of Wilderness First Aid. Five outdoor simulations (think fake blood, cuttable clothing, first aid kits and chilly temps), responder/patient debriefs, lecture, copious note taking, trail mix snacking, Nalgene drinking, a flawless fish hook removable (from an honest-to-goodness pig's foot), SOAP notes, bandage making and much, much more. All in a day's work with the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE) and Jeannette Stawski.
The course continued with a variety of instructional strategies, segmented content sequences and real-life facilitator tips and stories. Practice exercises and meaningful feedback were strategically peppered throughout the day to provide exposure and hands-on experience.
Day 3 of Wilderness First Aid. Countless memories and stories; endless fodder for presentations, blog posts and articles; and, of course, both the injection lab and graduation. I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in recreating outdoors. #AORE
Mini-assessments throughout the course helped determine which skills were gained and where more work was needed. Moreover, retention and transfer were supported by a very detailed and user-friendly handbook (The Wilderness Medicine Handbook, Third Edition, by Paul Nicolazzo).
12496402_10156400281240524_4621355446685293082_oSo, the lessons learned?
  1. There's a lot that could go wrong in the backcountry. It's probably best not to leave your homes. (Kidding!)
  2. Interestingly enough, this course aligned with Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction, a systematic instructional design process (which I quite enjoy!) with a focus on learner outcomes.
  3. As learners (and leaders) it's important to step away from our functional areas from time to time to gain professional development experiences from thought leaders and in content areas unfamiliar to us. This Wilderness First Aid course has absolutely made me a better learning strategist.
  4. Experiences like these, which allow us to better connect with our staff or clients, cannot be underestimated. The teambuilding opportunities and shared experiences are both memorable and invaluable.
  5. This investment (of both time and money) has already allowed me to better connect with my client's members. My first-hand glimpse into their world allows me to better relate and collaborate.
What's been your experience with out-of-the-box professional development opportunities? Leave a comment with your story (good, bad or otherwise).
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