Building Community: Wilderness First Aid Scholarship 2021

Updated: Feb 8

With CPR Seattle and Desert Mountain Medicine, SheJumps presented its first-ever Wilderness First Aid Scholarship to 26 women to learn emergency backcountry medicine.


Scars, bruises and cuts are part of a package deal when it comes to outdoor activities. That’s no secret. But what happens when a worst-case medical scenario happens? To help individuals expand on those skills, SheJumps introduced the Wilderness First Aid (WFA) Scholarship in 2021. The inaugural program created a total of 26 spots in the classroom through providers CPR Seattle and Desert Mountain Medicine (DMM). As part of SheJumps' commitment to building a more inclusive space in the outdoors for all, 100% of the scholarships were provided to self-identifying Black, Indigenous, Women of Color.


A core element to the SheJumps mission is to pursue play without compromising safety. For those who play and work in the outdoors, a base knowledge of remote medical skills is essential to feel confident and self-sufficient on an adventure.


Photo from CPR Seattle Wilderness First Aid Course by Alyssa Macy


In 2017, SheJumps reached out to CPR Seattle based in Washington state to schedule an all-women's WFA class. "We thought it was a fantastic idea," explained Mischi Carter, President and Founder of the organization. "For a training situation, learning individual skills is of the utmost importance. If you are distracted or uncomfortable in the learning environment, your full attention cannot be directed towards learning the core skills necessary to help patients."


It was the beginning of a working relationship that's lasted for years. "When SheJumps reached out with yet another brilliant idea of having a WFA class for Women of Color, we readily embraced the opportunity to facilitate this," she added.


A 16-hour WFA certification is the recognized industry standard for basic life support skills in the backcountry and frequently required training for jobs in outdoor recreation. From skiing in the alpine to hiking in remote wilderness, the course offers a chance for participants to get hands-on wilderness medicine experience in case of the unexpected.



Morgan Matthews, the Program Director at DMM, feels passionately about the collaboration. "The SheJumps and DMM Women's Wild Med Program relationship was a natural fit, not only in empowering women to safely navigate the backcountry, but in creating a community and space for women to talk about the triumphs and challenges we face in the outdoor industry where the complexion has historically been a white, male-dominated environment."


As founder of the women-specific programming at DMM, she hopes to help crack the lopsided gender ratio in wilderness therapy. The partnership with SheJumps is likely the first of many. "This course was, by far, my favorite course to teach," Morgan stated. "The energy on this course was vibrant, and we are so grateful for this partnership and the opportunity to provide training for this group of women."


Photo from CPR Seattle Wilderness First Aid Course by Alyssa Macy


"Just being in a room with everyone was inspiring," said Katie C., one of the participants in the course. "I used to think about the worst-case scenario and feel extremely unprepared, but now I feel like I have the skills to respond to all kinds of different worst-case scenarios."


The WFA curriculum is created by professionals with years of experience in both emergency and wilderness medicine. Morgan herself worked as an ER Nurse for 11 years. “There is an extra level of preparedness that needs to be implemented in an austere environment and the mix of front country emergency medicine and wilderness medicine are very much interlaced,” she explained.


Director of CPR Seattle's Wilderness Programming Matt Palubinskas volunteers for Search and Rescue and priorly worked as a ski patroller. “I often infuse my experiences from SAR missions into the scenarios that students practice at CPR Seattle,” he said. “I attempt to bring the field to the classroom.”


Both have a wealth of knowledge and experiences to pull from. Topics in the course ranged from bleeding control of a hemorrhage to communicating help for a remote rescue. Many real-life scenarios were acted out to help get in the mindset of what an emergency situation would feel like.


“I definitely want to keep building on my skills and one way I plan to do that is by applying for the Washington SAR training program,” said Yasime A., one of the students at the Seattle WFA. “What was so amazing about the course was we had a space to talk about nuances of our own potential application of this class to reality and the challenges that we may uniquely face.”


The course is an excellent introduction to wilderness medicine, but continuing that education is a lifelong journey.


“I’ll continue to do the things I love in the backcountry, and will do so with another tool in my belt. The more you know, learn, and equip yourself for safe travel, the better,” added Gabby S., who joined DMM’s course in Denver. “At the end of the weekend we went around and shared experiences in the outdoors as women - this was really insightful as we were all women of color. It combined our experiences and let me know that I am not the only one!”


Photo from CPR Seattle Wilderness First Aid Course by Alyssa Macy


For those interested in continuing their certification process, the next certification step is a Wilderness First Responder course offered by CPR Seattle or DMM.


 

SheJumps is building an outdoor community to which we can all belong. We welcome all women and girls (transgender and cisgender) as well as non-binary people who self-identify with the women’s community. SheJumps strives to fight against racism and acknowledges that our events and programs take place on traditional, unceded, and stolen Indigenous lands.


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