Wilderness Physician Course (WP)

By Dr. David Monks

Why did you do the course?
I have a keen interest in mountaineering and am currently a probationary member of Dublin-Wicklow Mountain rescue. I had also signed up with Earths Edge to be an expedition doctor climbing Kilimanjaro and so I wanted to do the course to get some experience at treating people outdoors on the hillside.

Who is the course aimed at?
The course is aimed at doctors who have some ED experience. The doctors on our course were either ED trainees or GP’s who were interested expedition medicine. It’s run in tandem with a wilderness EMT course.

Give a brief overview of the course
The course is a week-long and run by WEMSI (wilderness emergency medicine society international). Each day is structured with some classroom based teaching in the morning to early afternoon. Although on occasion this can comprise of some practical outdoor lessons. After dinner time there are wilderness medicine based scenarios, generally three in total. These were brilliant. They ranged from an artificially constructed cave which had collapsed trapping someone, to a patient in a harness hanging from a tree with a suspected spinal injury and a canoeist still in the water in his canoe impaled on a wooden branch.

They teach a wide range of things from packaging a patient, how to relocate a dislocated shoulder using ropes, dealing with minor injuries, high altitude related issues, using walkie-talkies, improvising management of a patient with basic hiking gear (using a bivi bag to make a pelvic binder). You were generally on a team with other doctors and took turns being team leader.

Would you recommend the course?
Definitely. It was a brilliant course with great faculty. There was a great atmosphere for the week. The food was really good. You would need to be into the outdoors and have good hiking gear as the scenarios are run in all weather- one of the nights it was snowing!

When is the course usually run and how much did it cost?
My course was run in March and I know there is one on in 2016 around the same time. It cost 1000 euro but if you consider it’s a week long, that this includes all your bed and board and all your food its quite good value. Unfortunately it is not on the HSE’s course remuneration scheme.

Where can we find more information?
You can find more information on their website. http://www.wemsi-international.org/index.php/wilderness-physician

David Monks is a Year 2 Core Specialist Trainee in Emergency Medicine, St. Vincent’s Emergency Dept., Donnybrook, Dublin 4.


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