I took part in WAFA (Wilderness Advanced First Aid) training in Vierumäki last week.
One could wonder why I would attend something where they speak exclusively English and right after completing the Red Cross First Aid 2. No one forced me, you see.
I’ve been watching the courses the Wilderness Medical Associates arrange and which are provided by Outward Bound Finland Ry. In addition to the actual content of the course, I was also interested in learning first aid terms in English, since that would definitely prove useful in my line of work.
The courses have always taken place during an unfavorable time for me but this time Lady Luck offered an olive branch: I won at the Partioaitta Facebook raffle!
So what is this WAFA all about?
Wilderness Advanced First Aid is an international first aid course.
The content is pretty much the same as in its Finnish counterpart. However, they put more weight in a very specific system aka the triangles. We went through example cases in class and outdoors.
For outdoorsy people, hiking professionals and for someone working in different terrains, this course gives different tools for emergencies than first aid classes focusing on urban situations.
They really concentrate applying these teachings to wilderness context where access to medical care is delayed, you have only limited equipment and the terrain can be extremely hostile.
WAFA, being an international first aid course, I hear, is widely used all around the globe and is even mandatory in some work places.
Triangles simplify first aid preparation
In WAFA they focus on a certain approach to emergency situations – simplified instructions are easy to remember and follow even during crisis and high-pressure situations.
I can still hear our teacher Gavin’s voice:
Trust your triangles!
Triangles are a whole in the form a pattern that when followed, leaves no stone unturned and should the patient need evacuating, it’s easy to give the medical personnel the information they need.
I received the course book in the mail about a month prior. They also handed out a class notebook, a SOAP Notebook for writing patient details and a Field Guide that fits nicely in your pocket.
I especially loved the book and how it provided little pieces of information to jog your memory. I know I’ll be glancing through it and my notes come winter to remind myself of the important details. The Field Guide will probably end up in my rucksack, since it’s water resistant.
Studying in a foreign language isn’t as bad if you get the chance to familiarize yourself with the material beforehand. And it’s not wrong to use a dictionary.
Learning is much more important than the actual terms, however. During the course of the weekend we were constantly monitored and should we do something in a slipshod way, our instructors and classmates let us know immediately. It was safer to mess up here than in an actual emergency.
The biggest surprise was networking
Due to its nature, WAFA courses usually gather enthusiastic, international and adventurous people together for the four days it lasts. There were lots of ski guides, glacier instructors and travel arrangers who take people to places I can only dream of.
For instance, my lovely roommate Inka was a backcountry guide from Japan! We had so much to talk about!
Now I’m not going to introduce all of my classmates but suffice it to say they were all a lot more social than I expected and we had a bunch of intriguing conversations every day and night! I also had the pleasure getting to know a fellow wilderness guide Sammalsielu (Moss Soul) Osma who I carpooled with.
The days were long and every day we had homework: example cases and going through whatever we learned the previous day.
I’m also more than happy that I got to meet Gavin and Carl: they were tremendously talented and made learning easy and fun.
A sidenote about comparing courses/hype
Every now and then I come across a notion that the Finnish Red Cross First Aid 1 and 2 are a standard yet poorly arranged since the Finnish Red Cross is basically a monopoly.
First off: they’re not since it’s illegal to demand specifically their first aid cards. Usually it’s stated “or corresponding skills”.
It’s a matter of debate which courses can be accepted as “corresponding”. Unfortunately I don’t have the answer to that.
Secondly: The Finnish Red Cross is constantly evolving their practices and they have good tools to maintain the courses: CPR dolls (that give feedback on how well you’re doing) and other devices. If you attended a bad course, give feedback!
Another advantage they have, is a very thorough CPR and first aid training and because of it, I was familiar enough with the terminology.
I was fortunate enough to have a Finnish Red Cross instructor who braved their own ailments to give us a proper lesson outdoors to us wilderness guide students. Not all instructors are adapt so well and if your class doesn’t have outdoorsy people, there’s really no sense specializing in wilderness circumstances.
I plan to make sure my Finnish Red Cross First Aid card valid and take part in WAFA and Bridge courses if I just can. I want to be the best person to help anyone in an emergency!
My WAFA training and card are valid for three years, during which I can upgrade it to WFR aka Wilderness First Responder via Bridge training. So I know what’s next!
WAFA classes in Finland: Outward Bound Finland Ry – first aid courses
Partioaitta 365 Club offers events all around the country!
P.S – thanks Gavin for the awesome shots!