A Touch of Mountain Medicine

WMT’s Mountain Medicine Course

You have the chance to be an expedition medic. Which group would you choose to join?

  1. A charity walk with thirty people climbing Kilimanjaro?
  2. A school trip to India with thirty 14-18 year olds?
  3. A high altitude climb with a small group of fee paying climbers?

It’s not what you might expect to be debating, sitting on the side of a hill on a beautiful calm October day in the Lake District. The small group of doctors (and one nurse) joining the Mountain Medicine course run by Wilderness Medical Training had some interesting and entertaining views. They were views based on a range of experiences and it made for an excellent weekend.

The Wilderness Medical Training courses including the 2 day Mountain Medicine course are open to doctors, nurses and medical students interested in medical care far from home. This October the group was made up of one nurse and a range of doctors including a few FY2s, a couple of FY3s, GPs, anaesthetic trainees and Consultant physicians. They all gathered at the Grasmere Hostel for a weekend of Mountain Medicine. Some were there taking their first steps to find out a little more and others there to add to their already impressive experiences.

The Grasmere Hostel was an excellent, very clean and modern facility with kitchen, dining area, sitting room, sauna and conference room space (as well as a drying room which wasn’t needed). There was no real need to venture out to the local pub next door but we did of course. We had some pub grub with one or two beers whilst getting to know the others arriving for the course ahead.

The chat was about previous courses, about current jobs and about the hot topic of the junior contract, though all these things seem pretty distant when you’re sitting there watching the sun set over Cumbria.

The first day started with bacon and eggs and introduction talks from the instructors who were straight to it, imparting their knowledge and clear expertise. This wasn’t teaching from the books, this was teaching from experience, and it showed. Talks included how to prepare for an expedition and basic navigation.

The reality of being an expedition medic isn’t just about knowing your ABC from your um, elbow. Being part of the team leading an expedition means that the medic on board should know what’s going on around them. That’s true for the preparation, route finding, navigation, security on steep ground and all things expedition related as well as being the one dealing with emergencies. The course covered these and more. Day two covered topics such as high altitude and cold injuries.

Walking in the hills in smaller groups allowed time to discuss relevant topics between group activities. Discussion points included group dynamics, water purification, medical kits and communication technologies, until it was time to deal with an injured climber on the hill, secure someone on a steep patch or cross a river.

Back in the conference room after a warming dinner and with the wine flowing, the instructors each gave a personal, inspiring talk. In one evening we went from breathing bottled Oxygen on top of Everest to taking prophylactic Diamox at altitude in the Antarctic, to sipping cold champagne in the Frozen Arctic for a romantic honeymoon story. A final talk gave insight into how we could find our way in the world of Wilderness Medicine and it was all very positive. Two days just aren’t enough though and this introduction to Mountain Medicine really only gets to scratch the surface but it was enough of a scratch to get this medic hooked again.

And my answer to that earlier question about which trip I would choose? Can’t I do all three?

A doctor taking a rest inside the Gamow Bag

A doctor takes a break inside the Gamow Bag

Tips:

It helps if you have some knowledge of navigation to start with as time is short. Knowing your Ordnance Survey maps, the scales and the symbols on them will help. Also, you have to be fit enough to be able to walk in the hills for an afternoon or two but vast previous experience is not necessary on this course.

Pros:

Excellent preparation information and joining instructions. Use of social media to bring the group together to help with transport prior to joining. Very nice and clean hostel facility. The clear experience and professionalism of the WMT instructors. The Medic Course Notes book is an impressive manual of all things Wilderness Medicine. This take-away manual covers a lot more that the two day course can.

Cons:

Two days just isn’t enough time! Parts of the course felt a bit rushed towards the end in order to fit it all to the time allowed.

The costs:

At £420 for the weekend, it will bite into your training budget but it compares well to other two day post graduate courses. You get a lot for your money, including an impressive hostel and 12 CPD points if that’s what you’re after. You will have to pay for travel to Cumbria.

Other courses run by the group include Chamonix Mountain Medicine courses in Winter, on skis and in Summer as well as the annual Morocco Mountain Medicine Course.

WMT

WMT’s Commercial Director Barry Roberts walking down with the group after a beautiful October day in the hills.

 

 

 

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