How do I become a Wilderness EMT?

If you’ve ever been interested in the medical field, but didn’t go to Medical School; or if you are already a holistic practitioner but you feel that your training did not prepare you to recognize and respond to medical emergencies; if you live more than 20 minutes from a hospital…become a certified Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician now!

What’s the difference between Wilderness EMT and the EMTs who ride in an ambulance?

Legal coverage, liability and responsibility varies from state to state. Basically, EMTs are trained to respond to medical emergencies (heart attacks, car accidents, etc.), stabilize a patient and transport to the nearest hospital. Luckily, Paramedics in rural Colorado, for example, are trained for and legally allowed to perform higher level interventions such as starting an IV, and administering life-saving medications (like epinephrine and nitroglycerine) – while you are on the way to the hospital.

But what do you do if you’re on a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon? Or on a multi-week hike across the Continental Divide? We are exposed to very different dangers in the wilderness (sun, wind, cold, altitude, contaminated water, steep cliffs, avalanches, and wild animals – just to name a few), and with medical care potentially days away (rather than minutes) different skills are required to be prepared for the multitude of serious medical emergencies that can (and will) occur.

“Luck favors the prepared”

carlpikespeakThis is one of my favorite quips from Wilderness Medicine instructor, Carl Weil. He is the founding director of Wilderness Medicine Outfitters in Elizabeth, Colorado where he teaches and certifies everything from CPR, Basic Life Support, Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness First Responder & EMT, to Advanced Life Support, Expedition Medic, and even Leave No Trace.

Carl’s background is extensive in this field. He began working with Search and Rescue in 1959, and started teaching First Aid to Ski Patrollers in 1967. In 1972 he began his career as an EMT. Since then, he has served as a medic at Base Camp on Mount Everest, and has received numerous certifications and honors, including Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine, and became the first Master Fellow in 2012. You can read his full biography here.

I met Carl in 2010, while I was living at Tara Mandala Retreat Center in Pagosa Springs, Colorado as a Buddhist Nun and studying Homeopathy. I quickly realized that my training in Homeopathy did not cover how to handle basic medical emergencies, and living in this remote, wild location we were isolated and needed on-site medical expertise (a 20 minute ambulance ride from the nearest hospital in the summer time, in the dead of winter, buried under several feet of snow, transport was more difficult).


Test scenario, 3 responders attending to one patient. Image from

Then I found Wilderness Medicine Outfitters. I took the 10 day WFR/WEMT course held on Carl’s land in Elizabeth, CO. Several months later, I met Carl in Denver for a 7-day intensive Advanced Life Support class that included a cadaver lab. The most interesting part of that particular course was that it was full of Army Medics, who had just returned from one tour in Iraq, and were preparing to go back for a second.

“We chose this course because Carl teaches improvisation in the field, which the Army Medic training does not provide.” one of the medics shared on the first day.

Become a WEMT today!

Check out this flyer to see what WEMT training includes (this is the six-week training that I will be taking starting next week, make sure to follow this blog for regular updates!)


Wilderness Medicine Outfitters offers an incredible catalog of online resources to whet your appetite for this invaluable training, click here to watch some introductory videos on how to turn a hankerchief into a shoulder sling, and backcountry preparedness basics.


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