There are a number of ways you can maintain your cognitive skills after a course:
- Review the case studies in their Case Study workbook making sure to actually complete a SOAP note on each patient.
- Complete the case studies in our Newsletters and Blog.
- Shuffle through the cases studies on our Wilderness Medicine Playing Cards.
- Design and manage simulations for your organization using the above materials for references.
Maintaining your treatment skills — splinting, wound cleaning and care, litter packaging, etc. — will take more effort. You'll need planning, equipment, at least one patient, and occasionally a number of friends to act as assistant rescuers. The same is true for simulation practice.
While most graduates leave their course with the best of intentions, few actually follow through. Those that do, tend to focus on maintaining their cognitive skills using one or more of the methods described above because they can do it on their own and it requires minimal equipment. A select few will take a Recertification course each year for three to five years while also working on their cognitive skills. While this is highly effective, I can count on my fingers the number of students who have actually done this over the past 25 years.
So...what to do?
On an individual basis, do as much as you can. Practice your cognitive skills regularly, take a Recertification course as often as possible; and, if time and interests permit, join an ambulance squad, SAR team, or a ski patrol.
If you manage a school, outfitter, camp, etc. outdoor program plan and conduct regular skill labs and simulations throughout the year. If your program is seasonal, plan pre and mid season training. Consider becoming an Affiliate Instructor so you can offer inexpensive WFA courses to your staff on your own schedule (remember that WFA courses can be used to recertify current WAFA, WFR, and WEMT certifications). A number of staff trainers have been using our Wilderness Medicine Playing Cards at the end of staff meetings and in the evenings during staff trainings to review case studies specific to their activities and to spark relevant discussion.
What ever you do...do something. You have invested time, energy, and money in your wilderness medicine training; you want it readily accessible when you need it. Remember: "Use it or lose it."