Wilderness medicine is the practice of medicine and patient care in remote places where evacuation to civilized and advanced life support will take a prolonged time. Many think that one must be past a certain time period before they can practice wilderness medicine. However, any extended time can be considered a "wilderness" area. The main question is to ask "What is going to kill them first?" This type of practice goes beyond the typical first aid training.

General Principles of Wilderness Rescue:

  • The most important diagnosis of all is "serious or not serious."
  • Does the risk outweigh the benefit? (The Risk/Benefit Ratio)
  • Go from generic to specific when assessing a patient.
  • When thinking about patient treatment, think ideal to real.
  • Remember you are help and do not panic.


There are many ways that technology can be applied to the Wilderness Medicine field. Mobile devices/Wearable technology can help determine which symptom is doing the most damage and should be taken care of first. Mobile devices can help prevent serious situations by keeping you informed about upcoming weather conditions. They also have GPS technology implemented so you can know the type of terrain that you should expect, and can also help the WEMT to locate you in case of emergencies.
There are a few certifications that can be acquired in order to be trained properly for Wilderness situations. These certifications include Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness First Responder, and Wilderness EMT.
Wilderness First Aid: This certification is for the seasonal outdoor enthusiast who like to go on short term wilderness adventures. Its main goal is to teach general medical concepts and basic life support skills. There is realistic, practical, and hands on first-aid training in a backcountry environment. This is the most basic course offered by wilderness medical professionals.
Wilderness First Responder: This certification is the standard in wilderness medicine. It includes medical, leadership, and critical thinking training. The course is idea for remote area leaders such as guides and search and rescue teams. It teaches the skills necessary to assess and manage medical problems in isolated environments for days or even weeks if required.

Wilderness EMT: This course expands on previous EMT training to meet the special needs that emerge from a remote environment. It gives greater experience in the rural, wilderness, and technical rescue setting. Tools are not readily available in the wilderness as they are in an ambulance. This is the highest non-MD course offered by wilderness medical professionals.

Web Resources:

Related Terminology:

Improvised Medicine- Improvised Medicine is using special methods of healthcare. Improvised medicine is used essentially in extreme conditions that may be unexpected,when a practitioner has to give medical attention outside of their comfort level. There are many things to consider when determining whether or not to implementImprovised Medicine in certain situations. These things include “what can be done,what needs to be done, and how to do it, but not having the right tools.” It is very hard to set standards for situations where medicine needs to be improvised because each situation can be different in multiple ways. There are a lot of variables within disaster situations.Variables such as different types of injuries, working with staff in “unusual” locations, and not having the proper equipment to treat certain injuries.

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You can think of Improvised Medicine asexternal image Wilderness-Medicine-Institute-1.jpgMacGyver as a healthcare technician,using the tools that he has availableat the time to do everything that he can.
Richard Dean as MacGyver

High Altitude and Mountaineering Medicine- Being at a high altitude can cause altitude sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). AMS is caused due to low oxygen in the brain. Symptoms can be similar to a migraine, however can escalate and get as bad as high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). Knowing what this is can help give a better understanding as to what should be done in these situations. Ibuprofen can be used to help with the headache, but going to a lower altitude is advised if symptoms worsen. As i mentioned before, mobile technology can help understand and know your terrain.
Search and Rescue Medicine- Search and Rescue is pretty self explanatory regarding what it is. As far as Technology goes, search and rescue teams rely heavily on modern technology for communication and GPS. Search and rescue teams utilize modern technology to the fullest extent to locate disaster survivors and to determine how best to help them to survive.
Backcountry Medicine- There are courses available in backcountry medicine that help to teach rural and wilderness survival and medical training. Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness First Response, and WEMT are examples of courses included. These are the courses that will train people to utilize the technology that they have to help people in danger as best as they can.


  • Isaac, Jeff E., and David E. Johnson. Wilderness and Rescue Medicine. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2012. Print.
  • Wilderness Medical Training
  • Iserson, Kenneth V. Improvised Medicine: Providing Care in Extreme Environments. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical, 2012. Print.
  • Institute for Altitude Medicine. n.d.


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