Washburn students travel north for wilderness first aid training

The wilderness served as the classroom for several Washburn students this spring providing not only practical education but adventure and fun.

“It was great to get north and see a part of the United States that I have never seen before,” said Freshman Tyler Heintzelman.

And north was the destination for the trip portion of the Exploring America Washburn Transformation Experience led by John Burns, Washburn director of athletic training education. This was Burn’s first year to teach the course, which took place from May 17-25.

The five Washburn students who participated were Kristen Bell, Tyler Heintzelman, Logan Lauer, Lauren Livengood, and Dustin Miner.

Burns is certified in Wilderness and Remote First Aid with the Red Cross. Upon completion of this course the students become certified as well.

The course helps prepare the student for the unexpected and teaches them how to care for people who become ill or injured in remote “care delayed” places, usually considered an hour or more away from emergency medical care.

Burns said this is great training for athletics students. If students can respond to emergencies where medical help is not close, then they should have little to no problem responding out on the field. Kristen Bell, a senior in the athletics-training program recommends all students in the medical field take this trip as well.

“Situations arise in different places requiring the knowledge to understand when treatment should be given,” Bell said.

The course started with two full day class sessions on campus, which consisted of course content along with a little hands on training. 

Then came the big test; a trip north to Preston, Minnesota for three days where the students practiced and applied what they had learned. Instruction combined with realistic scenarios provided the students with the knowledge and skills to make sound decisions during emergency situations. 

“One of the goals from this trip was being able to take the knowledge and skills learned through classroom experience and respond to a situation where practical tools weren’t available,” said Bell.

Some of the outdoor activities included camp fire instruction, trout and fly fishing, hiking, a cave tour, geology tour, and general exploration of the area. The two female students, Bell and Livengood, also opted to take a tour of the local Amish farms which Bell considered one of the more exciting lessons.

“We were taught about everything, from weddings to funerals, schooling of children, shunning of others, the appropriate way to dress, dating, farming and how they commute to far away places. After taking this tour, it made me realize how much I personally take the small things in life for granted,” Bell said.

When the students returned from the trip they were expected to complete projects related to their WTE experience. For example, creating a public awareness poster or writing a reflective essay about the trip.

Burns said the students experienced first hand that they possessed knowledge they could contribute to benefit others. For example, the cave director, who is also a geologist, led the class on a tour through a portion of the cave not part of the general tour. At the end of the tour the students acted out an emergency scenario.

This led to further discussion and questions. The tour guide may know how to navigate through the cave, but what if something happened such as an injury that prevents coherency? How would those following the tour guide find their way out? Because of the students, the cave director decided to change policies. Especially one that will require all tour guides to now carry a map.

“They saw themselves as having an impact on how the cave runs in the future,” Burns said. “They also experienced the impact we have on every part of our environment.”

Although Burns said only athletics students participated this year, students from all departments are welcome.

“After taking this course I have realized that accidents happen anywhere and wilderness first aid is a critical component to ensure effective treatment is given at the appropriate time,” Bell said.

For more information about Wilderness and Remote First Aid visit: http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/HealthandSafety/Training/wilderness_fa.aspx

Anyone interested in participating in a similar WTE experience visit: http://www.washburn.edu/academics/wte/index.html