What is Wilderness Medicine?

Wilderness Medicine has been evolving in the United States since the early 1970’s. Within the last decade many wilderness pre-hospital emergency medicine training organisations have been established to meet the growing need to provide trip leaders and outdoor enthusiasts with the knowledge needed to deal with accidents and sudden illnesses in remote places.

Wilderness Medicine throughout the world is defined as ‘more than one hour from definitive medical care’. Although accidents and illnesses are often similar to those in urban settings, there are a number of significant challenges in wilderness medicine where rapid access to medical assistance may be delayed. These include:

  • Long-term patient care such as wound, burns and blister management, realignment of fractures, reduction of dislocations, management of athletic injuries.
  • A remote environment with changing climatic conditions creating challenges for both patients and rescuers.
  • Limited supply of equipment for stablisation or evacuation of a patient, requiring a need for improvisation techniques.

The wide variety of emergency situations, create further challenges in wilderness medicine, requiring training, experience and expertise. Decisions made and treatment provided may allow for a patient to continue their trip or evacuate safely to definitive medical care.

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