Op-Ed: Has the Time Come to Standardize Wilderness Medicine Education and Training?Wilderness Medicine Training
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…)
Gratitude is an Action Word for NCOAE StaffLife At NCOAE
Gratitude is most often used as a noun, describing as it does, the feeling of being thankful. This warm and comforting word is often bandied about during the holidays, when we reflect upon all of the things for which we are grateful. But for some of us — and in particular, many of our staff members here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) — we treat the word gratitude as a verb.
Great employees often live in gratitude by taking positive action. And that means being present for others, which includes listening to their issues or desires and connecting with them. It also means becoming the person that someone else is grateful for.
Just before the holidays truly got underway, we asked some of our staff members to list just some of the things for which they were most grateful. We’re not the least bit surprised that some of their comments encompassed our students and fellow staffers.
Here’s their take on gratitude, in their own words: (more…)
How a Hotel Parking Could Lead to NCOAE Establishing a Pacific Northwest LocationAbout NCOAE
It’s not often that we derive inspiration while standing in the middle of an overcrowded parking lot, but for our co-founder and executive director Zac Adair, it was in just such an unlikely setting that the notion of opening a Pacific Northwest location for NCOAE took hold.
This idea came to mind during a recent trip to Oregon, where Zac was checking out the outdoor recreation and education scene. Accompanied by a friend who also works in the human-powered outdoor recreation and adventure education space, the two men found themselves in the parking lot of the historic Timberline Lodge, situated about halfway up the 11,239-foot-high Mount Hood — undoubtedly the most majestic mountain in the state.
Well known for more than a century for its outstanding outdoor recreational possibilities — available year-round and in every outdoor rec category imaginable — the Mount Hood area and the nearby Deschutes River are virtual meccas for wilderness enthusiasts of every outdoor sport persuasion. And as Zac and his friend were to witness in that hotel parking lot on that day last month, diversity is the key when it comes (more…)
Bears Ears Controversy Threatens Outdoor Retailer Show in UtahLand Management
The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education’s founders Zac and Celine Adair recently returned from this month’s Outdoor Retailer Winter Market show in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the buzz inside The Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center was centered around moving the show out of Utah and to a state with “a more friendly view of federally designated lands.”
The controversy stems from a yearlong dispute that pits the present governor of Utah, Republican legislators and many residents of the area against environmentalists and dozens of Native American tribal nations.
The argument revolves around determining the best way to conserve and develop the Bears Ears area in southeastern Utah.
Named for a pair of isolated mesas resembling a bear raising its head above the horizon, Bears Ears National Monument encompasses 1.3 million acres of wilderness area between the San Juan and Colorado rivers. This triangle of land is held sacred by a number of Native American tribes, including a coalition of Hopi, Navajo, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni governments.
An estimated 100,000 archaeological sites are located (note: link opens a PDF file) — and protected — within the Bears Ears area, including cliff dwellings that date back more than 3,500 years and other cultural sites that are deemed sacred to the half dozen tribes that make up the coalition.
And while nearly everyone involved in this eco-dispute agrees the Bears Ears area should be protected, the extent of management of the land is in question, with many Utah legislators envisioning room for commercial development and fossil fuel extraction in lands adjacent to the area.
For more than four decades, Utah ranchers, residents and lawmakers have fought to (more…)
Cheers to You and Us!About NCOAE
As 2016 comes to an end, we’re honored to take a moment out from our end-of-year activities to say thank everyone for their continued support and encouragement of The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE).
When our founders Zac & Celine Adair started this organization in 2009, their mission then for NCOAE was as clear as it is today — improve people’s self-confidence and interpersonal relationships through the teaching of a core curriculum emphasizing teamwork, environmental stewardship and the acquisition of technical outdoor skills. We’ve come a long way since 2009, and guided by that same mission, 2016 has been another year of phenomenal growth.
A few key highlights: (more…)
Zac Adair and Seeing the Backcountry Through a Soda StrawStaff Profiles
It’s been a while since Zac Adair and his wife, Celine, co-founded The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE), and while it would be nice to think they jumped into this challenging not-for-profit enterprise with eyes wide open, that wouldn’t be completely accurate.
Yes, going into it they had a great game plan. They had previously founded and run two other outdoor education organizations — a not-for-profit named Panacea Adventures, and the Adventure Education Institute (AEI) — which they merged to create NCOAE. But these North Carolina-based outdoor educators — raising their infant child — were working under a disadvantage that certainly couldn’t be ignored in the planning stages of NCOAE. And while some would consider it a major hurdle to their career plans, Zac and Celine saw it more as a nuisance.
So much so, in fact, that they haven’t felt it necessary to bring up the fact that Zac — a veteran surfer, rock climber, whitewater river guide and outdoors program business manager — lost the majority of his vision when he was struck on his bicycle by an automobile back in 2003.
And now, more than a dozen years later, he has less than 2 percent vision left (in just one eye) and he describes that vision through his good eye as, “seeing the world through a soda straw.”
The accident happened in Nags Head, N.C., in the late summer of 2003 while Zac was riding home on his bicycle after a session in the surfline. He was struck by a taxi traveling at 59 miles per hour. Zac was on life support for a full week. His cervical spine was broken in four places, his right leg was broken, he suffered severe right scapula damage, and as a result of the trauma, a year later he lost 98 percent of his vision in one eye, and 100 percent of his vision in his other eye.
Not many people — even those closely associated with NCOAE — are aware of Zac’s blindness, nor is it something the couple really cares to have bandied about. In fact, few of the course and training participants who meet Zac at NCOAE headquarters in Wilmington prior to departing for a local trip have any notion that our co-founder is legally blind.(more…)
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