WMTC's mission is to provide high quality, practical courses, consultation, books and supplies in wilderness medicine and outdoor program risk management.
WMTC's vision is to help create a world where outdoor trip leaders — both professional and private — have the medical and site management ability to prevent serious injury or death of those in their care.
The Wilderness Medicine Training Center was founded in 1997 by Paul Nicolazzo and incorporated in 2008 in Washington State. With over 35 years experience leading trips and training staff in challenging environments, Paul started WMTC because he believed there was a better way to effectively educate people in wilderness skills, rescue, and medicine. Over the years and under his direction, WMTC has proved this again and again as we continue to develop new teaching strategies, materials, and curricula for today's outdoor professionals. While we offer courses and ship supplies throughout the world, our office, warehouse, and classroom are located in the heart of the North Cascades near the small towns of Mazama and Winthrop in Washington State.
WMTC's medical courses are based on the following concepts:
- We believe that a clear understanding of wilderness medicine is required for effective site management and should be part of a required training progression for all outdoor leaders and administrators. An effective wilderness medicine course should increase the student’s awareness surrounding potential problems inherent in an outdoor program’s course design and provide enough education and insight to prevent the majority of them. At the same time, it should teach the necessary assessment and treatment skills required to address the most severe problems should they arise.
- We focus on providing practical instruction our students can understand, remember, and use. We strive to teach our students the information and skills they will need to prevent, assess, and treat the most common injuries and illnesses they are likely to encounter in the outdoors as expedition medical officers, trip leaders or participants. Our print and digital field handbooks provide an invaluable resource for students during and after the course.
- We use a proprietary mechanism of Injury/Illness (MOI) approach to differential diagnosis that helps students sort through the patient’s signs and symptoms to reach an accurate diagnosis. Field assessment is focused on making a distinction between those injuries and illnesses that may successfully be treated in the field and those that require an urgent, or non-urgent, evacuation. Most injuries and illnesses in a wilderness environment are a result of minor traumatic incidents, a lack awareness surrounding environmental hazards, and minor medical issues encountered in longer expeditions (often related to a lack of personal or group hygiene). There is a somewhat finite list of common traumatic and environmental problems each with their own clinical pattern making them significantly easier to prevent, assess, and treat (including evacuation) than many medical problems. As such, we present material according to MOI: trauma, environmental, and medical. We recognize that students are unlikely to remember all the material presented—especially those associated with complex medical MOI—and have developed a water-proof, tear-proof field manual and digital manuals for mobile devices to assist them.
- We teach normal anatomy and physiology before delving into the pathophysiology of each problem so that students gain a practical understanding of the problem and avoid a “grocery list” approach to assessment and treatment. To facilitate instruction in this area we utilize digital animations, dry erase anatomical posters, and a full-sized skeleton and anatomical torso. The animations and posters allow us to describe complex concepts in physiology and pathophysiology in a manner students can understand and retain while the skeleton and torso permit students to develop a hands-on three dimensional view of the human body. Our text provides a detailed reference before, during, and after our courses.
- We use interactive case study reviews and realistic simulations to build skill mastery and critical thinking. Retention and judgment are directly related to field experience and field experience is acquired through a thorough after-response analysis of an incident. Medical professionals master their assessment and treatment skills via on-the-job training programs before acting on their own. For the majority of trip leaders the experience and after incident analysis required for mastery must occur within the context of their course if it is to occur at all before they are required to act on their own. Therefore, we believe that an effective wilderness medicine course must contain enough case study review and simulation time to allow students to make, discuss, and learn from mistakes under the practiced eye of an experienced instructor. Simulations in our WFR and WEMT courses are video taped and later reviewed to enhance learning. Critical thinking saves lives. We teach critical thinking.
- We base our curriculum on position papers published by the Wilderness Medical Society and are signatories to the WFR and WFA scope of practice (SOP) documents; our director is part of the SOP writing group. This assures that our students receive the most current peer-reviewed information.
- We believe that outdoor leaders should be taught by professional outdoor leaders and educators with medical training rather than medical professionals with no professional—or minimal—outdoor leadership experience. Time spend outdoors leading both private and professional trips develops leadership and judgment; both essential to making sound medical and evacuation decisions.
- We believe instructors should tailor the depth of anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, and delivery methods to meet the specific needs of each class. We realize that students with varying academic abilities will require different depths of background anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology. Instructor’s are trained to accommodate varying abilities and given minimum guidelines for each course and course topic. Simulation “stories” are built from the outdoor activities expressed by individual students during the course introduction (hiker, biker, paddler, climber, skier, etc.), the outside environment (heat, cold, rain, snow, etc.), and the sponsor’s site constraints.
WMTC's risk management courses are based on the following concepts:
- Outdoor program risk management is divided into incident prevention and incident response. We believe that outdoor companies should focus their attention on incident prevention without ignoring incident response...and that training and accurate assessment of staff at all levels of the organization is critical to effective incident prevention.
- We believe that on the macro level program and course safety depends on the ability of the administration to balance risk inherent in the program design with the competency of the field staff.
- We believe that on the micro level course and activity safety depends on the site management ability of the field staff. Site management concepts and theory are proprietary and protected by trademark.
If, after reading this page, you are interested in working for us as a medical instructor please read the information on our instructor training page before downloading an application. All WMTC outdoor risk management instructors are senior wilderness medicine instructors.