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World of Wilderness Medicine

You are out with a group of friends in the Stirling Ranges on a hiking trip for the weekend. It’s a cold overcast day, you round a bend and arrive at the scene of an accident. A hiker is sitting on the side of the track holding his ankle with a look of pain on his face. He complains of pain in his ankle and is unable to walk. His ankle is bruised & swollen, he wear shorts and a t-shirt and is shivering slightly. What will you do?

Welcome to the world of wilderness medicine!

What is wilderness medicine you might ask? The Wilderness Medical Society Practice Guidelines for Wilderness Emergency Care states you are "more than one hour from definite medical care." It may have taken you an hour to hike there, or a day of paddling or a week of sailing.

Urban-based first aid courses generally focus on the ‘golden hour’ to reach definite medical care. Remember in the wilderness this may stretch to hours or even days. 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 cleaning and closure, reduction of dislocations and meeting basic patient needs such as food and water.

A remote environment with changing climatic conditions creating challenges for both patients and rescuers.

Limited supply of equipment for stabilisation 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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