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WFA Scope of Practice Document Update

Author(s): Tod Schimelpfenig
Posted: December 26, 2012

The Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course, widely taught by numerous providers, can be burdened with unrealistic expectations of the topics and skills that can be taught in a basic layperson first aid program.

In 2010, sensing a need to clarify what first aid skills and knowledge are realistic and practical for a WFA provider representatives from the major wilderness medicine educators created a WFA Scope of Practice (SOP) document.  The SOP is in essence a job description of what a WFA provider should know and what skills they should and should not be able to perform. 

The original writing group convened this fall to review and update the WFA SOP.  Two years have passed since the original document and with the publication of the WFA Skills Retention Study a review was timely.  The latest version articulates the minimum skills and knowledge base for a WFA provider.

Another ongoing project is a review of the medical evidence supporting WFA practices.  Several representatives of wilderness medicine schools are on this Wilderness Medical Society working group.  We hope to see publication of this work in 2013. 

This SOP document is not binding on anyone.  It is not crafted as a curriculum.   It reflects the consensus of a group of providers who created and have taught this course to tens of thousands of students over three decades and who are actively engaged in the practice of wilderness first aid.  It is our hope that it provides some guidance to those who teach WFA and guidance for the outdoor program manager deciding on the appropriate certification for their staff and for the consumer who is choosing between different certifications.  

We invite observations and comments, which can be submitted to any member of the working/writing group, and for organizations/individuals to indicate their support for this work by adding their signatures.


Tod Schimelpfenig

Curriculum Director

NOLS Wilderness Medicine

December 2012

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