Why do an Outdoor First Aid course?

Outdoor First Aid Training in the Forest of Dean and South Wales is our main activity. We run around 40 outdoor-specific first aid courses per year, including 1 day outdoor first aid, 2 day / 16 hour outdoor first aid and 2 day Forest School First Aid courses. Our attendees include outdoor instructors, ecologists, volunteer walk leaders, teachers, mountain bikers and more. So what makes an outdoor first aid course different to other courses?

First Aid Training for Outdoor Environments

The outdoor environment itself brings hazards and issues that simply don’t exist in indoor workplaces. The very real risk of needing to perform first aid for hypothermia is one of the main issues. If your casualty doesn’t have hypothermia to begin with, they almost certainly will after a couple of hours lying injured or unwell on the ground outside. That’s why insulation of casualties is such an important element of any outdoor first aid course.

The hazards present in the outdoors also include wildlife. Not just the big animals, but creepy crawlies like ticks. Lyme disease is definitely not something to be taken lightly, so it’s worth knowing a bit more about. Other issues include managing the weather, terrain and bringing help into difficult to access locations. 

Learn Remote First Aid Skills

The further you are from help, the more you might need to understand about your casualty. Vital signs monitoring becomes a crucial skill for the outdoor first aider. Keeping an eye on the progress of casualties over time helps to inform good decision making. Improvised techniques for immobilisation of limbs also become worth considering.

The main difference between outdoor first aid and general first aid probably lies in the decisions that have to be made. In an office environment, first aid for anything serious is usually limited to stabilising the casualty and awaiting help. In the outdoors, you may have to make many more decisions. Should you moving an injured casualty out of the poor weather? Is it better to walk out or await rescue? Can this casualty manage to walk? These decisions are based on their state of health, the weather, resources you have available and a whole range of other issues.

Outdoor First Aid for Leaders

A number of organisations either require or strongly recommend their leaders and volunteers hold an outdoor first aid qualification. Mountain Training UK, British Cycling, British Canoeing and the British Caving Association all advise an outdoor first aid qualification. The role of the individual concerned determines whether they should hold the 8 hour or 16 hour qualification.

Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme leaders and participants are another group for whom outdoor first aid training is highly recommended. Volunteer walk leaders for organisations such as HF Holidays and Ramblers Worldwide are also required to undertake the training due to the nature of the environments they lead in.

Choosing an Outdoor First Aid course

With plenty of options for outdoor first aid courses across the UK it can be difficult to work out what’s right for you. There are two awarding organisations overseeing regulated outdoor first aid qualifications at the moment. ITC First have been involved in outdoor first aid for over 25 years, with QNUK a newer entrant to the area.

Other organisations such as REC (Remote Emergency Care or Rescue Emergency Care, depending on which REC you find) have a long history of overseeing experienced trainers, but choose not to provide regulated qualification courses.

A 16 hour outdoor first aid course should last for 16 hours. It sounds a fairly obvious point to make, but 16 hours is the tutor contact time required. Unless you have no breaks on a course, 9-5 over 2 days is more likely to be 14 hours than 16!

Whether you need a regulated or unregulated course, probably the best approach is to look into the experience of your trainer. Their commitment to continued professional development and feedback from others can also tell you a lot. The most experienced practitioner doesn’t always make the best teacher, and equally a bit of real-world experience can help with some of the awkward questions you may have.

You can find out more about our approach to outdoor first aid here.