Great review of our 5 day Remote Area and Wilderness Casualty Care Course by a delegate with Search and Rescue and Wilderness Medical experience:
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5 day Remote Area and Wilderness Casualty Care Course with Remote Area Risk International.
They say that “practice makes perfect”, and practice is exactly what I got while undertaking a recent 5 day Remote Area and Wilderness Casualty Care Course with Remote Area Risk International, in Snowdonia. The course is not a first aid course - it’s above first aid - a Pre Hospital Care Course. The course included the Faculty of Pre Hospital Care, Royal College of Surgeon’s (Edinburgh) Clinically endorsed First Response Emergency Care Level 3 qualification (the logic behind this is so you also get a well regarded qualification that also works in the non remote area world) with additional evening CPD sessions each night on wilderness related subjects, from stretcher workshop, to altitude illness, Portable Altitude Chamber use, wilderness protocols, water purification, hygiene, snake bites (suction pumps and incisions are bad, finding out what snakes (and hospital based antivenin sources) are in the area in advance and rapid evacuation with a pressure dressing - if suitable - and splinting is good) and more.
The scenarios were wilderness related including an extended Search through a forest, with ongoing comms, ... and then we had to assess, treat what we found - then transport the Casualty to an extraction point notified to us by radio (prompt and appropriate communication was a theme of the course - the outside world doesn’t know you have a problem unless you tell them!) by basecamp.
For those of you who don’t know, FREC level 3 is an entry level qualification in the First Response Emergency Care progressive suite of courses and is a step up the ladder towards completing FREC 6 and becoming a registered paramedic.
While I am mainly office based by day, I have been involved in multiple Search & Rescue teams over the years and as a result have attended numerous outdoor first aid and casualty care courses, many of which last only a few days and despite the title, are predominately run inside! Through my connection and involvement with Search & Rescue, being an avid mountaineer in my spare time and involvement in my University Wilderness Medical Society whilst a student, coupled with working overseas in remote environments, I have fostered a deep interest in wilderness and remote pre-hospital medicine. I have been keen to develop my skills and knowledge. I had been pondering what courses I could do beyond those offered within Search & Rescue to expand my knowledge without having to go back to University. It was then one of my Search & Rescue colleagues, who is a medical professional with a plethora of pre-hospital experience suggested I look at the newly introduced FREC Courses.
A simple online search of “FREC 3 course” will present you with numerous companies all offering similar courses with a hefty price tag. It was then I heard (very complimentary) whisperings of a company called Remote Area Risk International from colleague within the Medical and Search & Rescue communities. After much pondering I decided to bite the bullet and attend their Remote Area And Wilderness Casualty Care Course which was being offered at a very reasonable price. I can categorically say, it was not a decision I regretted.
We received detailed pre course information so knew exactly what the content and timings would be.
From the outset I was pleasantly surprised to find that the course lasted 5 (full) days and was timetabled for 0900-2100 each day (with plenty of coffee and meal breaks)- far more than a standard 16-hour first aid course. Excellent, immersive education - and value for money. All backed up by post course literature. Communication with R2RI was speedy, efficient and helpful, including suggestions as to where to stay while attending the course. Soon after booking, I received a rather hefty package containing pre-course reading including the Generic Core Material Prehospital Emergency Care Course Book (from the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh) and Emergency First Aid Made Easy Book (which combined are worth around £50.00). I spend much of my day job reading copious amounts of text, often not written in plain English, but both these texts provided by R2RI were good preparation for the course, accessible to a lay person like myself.
Regarding the location of the course, The National Mountain Centre at Plas Y Brenin in Snowdonia, was perfect. We had access to the centre’s facilities meaning we could consume copious amounts of caffeine, water and the odd snack easily. Also due to the centre’s location we were only a short distance from a true wildness setting whether it be wooded flatland, steep ground or water. The cost of accommodation was also kept (very) low by staying in R2Ri’s favoured accommodation option (which I can testify is one of the nicest I have seen - and at a remarkably cheap price.
The course itself blended both the FREC syllabus required by Qualsafe (the awarding body of the FREC course) and unique wilderness elements designed and delivered by R2RI as evening CPD which was exactly how the course was sold. There is no doubt that the course I attended is very content heavy (most of which appear in an exam at the end of the course!), partly due to this course being a shorter duration than usual and therefore an intensive format. The instructors are second to none. They are all experts in their field, with years of experience in their respective fields within the remote area operations sphere. This became clear when they were talking about incidents they had been involved in and research they had conducted rather than second hand information they had read in a book. The instructors delivered lectures and ran workshops which were informative, up to date and expertly delivered; I was also particularly grateful for their handouts, both during and post course which not only covered the course content, but also supplemented it, which for curious individual like myself, was fantastic.
Perhaps my favourite lectures were from two very well-known names within the Wilderness Medical and Rescue communities respectively. Firstly a talk by Doctor Jim Duff a legendary expedition medic and mountaineer, now living in Australia, to lecture to us on the effects of high altitude sickness and instruct us on use of the PAC (Portable Altitude Chamber) - which he co invented, plus extremes of heat and cold on another day. Secondly, we also received a lecture from an offshore medic and leading rope rescue expert (also trauma lead for the U.K. Rescue Organisation) on Crush injuries, Road Traffic Collisions, Suspension trauma (all of which he has published work on) and a Penthrox Administrator qualification - a great analgesic for remote areas due to its light weight and versatility. Additional sessions were delivered by a Pre Hospital Care consultant to a government body, emergency department nurse with Mountain Rescue and arctic circle experience and a remote area Risk management specialist which has led expeditions overseas including desert and arctic circle experience.
While the course had in depth academic elements (namely anatomy and pathophysiology), it also a practical one, giving each of the delegates a chance to develop skill and ultimately test them in remote and pressured environments with detailed feedback at the end. We learned from our mistakes in a supportive environment - and rectified them for the next scenario. The realism portrayed in the scenarios was astounding. Having been involved in live search and rescue incidents/callouts I can testify, they felt very real; to the point that my significant other (who is a medical professional), after viewing the photos, thought I’d been involved in real incidents! R2Ri utilised the latest (eye wateringly expensive) full body advanced life support simulation manikins and moulage. Even course participants were left wondering whether the manikin was a live actor, the first time we encountered the manikin in a scenario.
Overall, I would highly recommend R2RI’s Remote Area and Wilderness Casualty Care course to anyone with an interest in remote or wilderness medicine. I got exactly what I signed up for and exactly what I wanted.
The course is perfect for Search and Rescue (better than the SAR Medical Courses I have attended), overseas expedition leaders, adventure travellers and outdoor instructors. The value of money is unquestionable, not only do they offer a fantastic course and plenty of “freebies” ( they call them “takeaways” - including numerous prompt cards and books, a reusable casualty card and Jim Duff’s leading mountaineering medicine book for our backpacks), but also access to a wealth of material for post-course CPD online. We were encouraged to do 118 hours post course reading.
R2RI as a company are highly professional, organized and clearly dedicated to providing quality courses, I would not hesitate to use R2RI for my FREC 4 and other courses as the opportunity arises. I definitely feel well equipped to deal with an incident in a remote area - and understand the limitations of what I can do within my skill set - so a big emphasis on planning, safety and early communications, plus getting the basics right - always and every time - is so important.