There is no shortage of wilderness medicine education providers in this country. From organizations that offer education and training for Wilderness First Responder (WFR) and Wilderness First Aid (WFA) certifications to those that offer train-the-trainer programs, a simple online search reveals a ton of options — especially when the search is focused on a specific geographical region.
What’s striking about all the wilderness medicine training and certification taking place is that none of it is nationally regulated. None of it adheres to commonly accepted industry standards that govern what’s being taught or how wilderness medicine education and training are being delivered. On the other hand, the training and certification EMTs receive is regulated on a state-by-state level and must meet minimum requirements as set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Wilderness medicine training, while loosely adhering to a similar curriculum, is officially overseen by, well, no one. That being said, standardization and oversight aren’t completely absent. Several organizations have attempted to fill the void with a variety of education programs, courses, guidelines, accreditations, and oversight committees.
A Mismash in the Making
Historically speaking, first on the list is the Wilderness Medical Society (WMS) — a nonprofit founded in the early 1980s to encourage, foster, support, and conduct activities that improve the scientific knowledge of human health activities in a wilderness environment. WMS offers three types of advanced wilderness medicine-related certification that have a “continuing education” focus and accreditation connection. The organization’s Fellowship in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM), Diploma in Mountain Medicine (DiMM), and Diploma in Diving and Marine Medicine (DiDMM) are all provided in accordance with standards set in part by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME).
There’s also the fledgling Wilderness Medicine Education Collaborative (WMEC) — an ad hoc group of medical educators whose interest in providing guidance on content for wilderness medicine courses has resulted in the creation of minimum guidelines and scope of practice (SOP) documentation for Wilderness First Aid (WFA), Wilderness Advanced First Aid / Advanced Wilderness First Aid(WAFA/AWFA), and Wilderness First Responder (WFR) training. While the work of the collaborative (whose members include leaders from SOLO Wilderness Medicine, Wilderness Medical Associates International, and NOLS Wilderness Medicine, among others) has resulted in a robust set of SOPs, its influence is nonexistent outside those of us who actively choose to look beyond ourselves for best practices. In other words, without accreditation, there’s no real motivation for anyone offering wilderness medicine education to seek out the WMEC. And without a formal structure and an administrative arm, the WMEC has no enforceable authority or meaningful influence.
Speaking of accreditation, closer to home for those us in outdoor and experiential education, following a rapid increase in the number of adventure programs in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it became imperative that outdoor experiential education programs develop standards of program quality, professional behavior, and appropriate risk management. Enter the Association for Experiential Education (AEE), which responded to that need in the early 1990s by developing comprehensive standards for common practices in the adventure education industry, becoming the nation’s first recognized accreditation provider focused on outdoor and adventure-based experiential education programming.(more…)
After years of hard work and preparation, we are pleased to share that we’ve been accredited by the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) — a Boulder, Colorado-based not-for-profit organization, with roots in adventure-based education, that exists to connect the global community of outdoor educators and expand our collective capacity to enrich lives through experiential education.
According to AEE’s website, The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) is one of only 14 wilderness-based adventure programs in the U.S. to meet the organization’s strict standards for wilderness/adventure programming, and the only such program to be accredited thus far in 2015. AEE’s Accreditation Council voted unanimously at the end of October to grant us a three-year accreditation term, adding in a letter sent to our executive director by the organization’s Director of Accreditation:
“You and your staff are to be commended for engaging in the accreditation process and committing the time and resources to operate such an outstanding program.”
Based on an AEE accreditation peer review team site visit earlier this year, which took place at NCOAE headquarters in Wilmington, N.C., as well as field observations and a deep review of our administrative and field operation documentation, the Accreditation Council found NCOAE to be in compliance with AEE Standards for the following:
- Program Governance
- Environment and (more…)
There are lots of things that separate the work we do here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) from others who offer outdoor education, wilderness trips and wilderness medical training for youths and adults. For starters, unlike other many other outdoor adventure education providers, we operate using a core curriculum that researchers have proven has a positive impact on participants’ self-confidence, interpersonal relationships, and civic and environmental responsibility. In addition, both the North Carolina Office of Emergency Medical Services and the State of North Carolina have approved us to offer an intensive 19-day EMT-Basic training curriculum.
But for those of us who work at NCOAE, that’s not enough. Like you, we demand a lot of ourselves, and as an emerging leader in our field, we want to be held accountable to standards far greater than those which we have set for ourselves. That’s why we’ve actively chosen to pursue accreditation from the Association for Experiential Education (AEE), the leading authority on standards for outdoor and adventure-based education programs in the United States and beyond.
If you’re unfamiliar with it, AEE’s Accreditation Program was conceived in the late 1980’s after a rapid increase in the number of adventure-based outdoor education programs starting popping up in the U.S. Quickly, AEE’s members and leaders alike saw the need for standards of program quality, professional behavior, and appropriate risk management.
In the mid-1990s, AEE developed the most comprehensive standards for common practices in the adventure education industry, becoming the nation’s first recognized accreditation body focused on outdoor and adventure-based education programming.
Since then, the AEE Accreditation Program’s standards-based evaluation process — which is led by AEE staff and a group of objective, independent reviewers with deep outdoor program management experience — has become the industry-accepted level of professional evaluation for programs like ours. And like any other leading organization in the field, we support these standards and are now going through the process of brining our operations into compliance with them.
The road to AEE Accreditation ensures only the best outdoor and adventure-based programs are included. Here’s an overview of the AEE Accreditation process: (more…)