It has occured to me that a lot of emphasis is put on “macguyvering” or using whatever you have to self-evacuate a patient to definitive care. Don’t get me wrong, many wilderness first aid classes that I’ve seen have done a really great job of making some very creative (and sometimes even effictive) make-shift spine boards with which to evacuate a patient. However there’s a new train of thought that we teach in wilderness first responder which I think is important to relay to WFA students and alumni which is:

In a wilderness rescue situation where you find yourself in need of evacuating a patient with a severe life-threatening condition, there’s a very strong likelihood of NOT doing a self rescue, but rather an assisted rescue where professional services are utilized. Many folks seem to want to get the patient to definitive care as quickly as possible; which is not entirely faulty – the issue is that with wilderness medicine, the goal is to stabilize the patient and stay with them until either help arrives or you can stabilize them and make them as highly visible as possible while you go get help. Your goal as a wilderness medicine provider (WFA or WFR) is NOT primarily to evacuate the patient; hence why two major teaching points of both courses are extended patient care and evacuation decision making.

WFA and WFR courses should train using professional rescue devices such as actual spine-boards, Reeves stretchers and Stokes basket litters for example.

I just felt that this is a clarification that should be made since so many students have asked the question of “when should we evacuate a patient and how would one go about doing so”. I will also answer that saying ‘it really depends on the situation.’ Remember though your primary goal: stabilizing the patient and if at all possible, sending for help.

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