Advanced Wilderness Medicine Life Support

December 13, 2019

The first ever Advanced Wilderness Medicine Life Support (AWLS) course in the region was taught this last month from November 2nd-4th at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville.  The three day course brought students to our campus from around the country and as far away as Cincinnati and Boston. In addition to the long distance travelers we were supported by a strong contingent of medical professionals from the greater Greenville area. Typical AWLS courses will engage between 15-25 students at a time, but the Greenville AWLS course easily exceeded typical capacity, having 35 students enrolled.

Rolling a simulated victim

AWLS is an internationally recognized program and analogue to other familiar life support certifications available to medical professionals like ACLS, PALS, or ATLS. The course lays a foundation in the principles and medical topics of wilderness medicine. Course matter ranges from hyperthermia, to animal bites, to avalanches. Like other life support courses, there is a hands-on component which tests students’ understanding of the practical skills required of a wilderness medicine professional. In AWLS this covers topics including patient transport, hemorrhage control, and wilderness thermoregulation. Each day is punctuated by hands-on experiences and the final day includes a written and practical exam.

Carrying a patient in an improvised litter

The course was taught by faculty from the Department of Emergency Medicine of Prisma Upstate, including Drs Mann, Pittman, and former faculty Dr Trevor Sloan. Joining them were faculty from the University of Colorado and Alaska.  Several familiar faces from the emergency department at Greenville Memorial enrolled in the course, including nurses, EMTs, and some of our consultant colleagues.

It is anticipated that this past course will be the first in an annual offering supported by the department of emergency medicine.  Planning is already in the works for the next course to be offered again this coming fall, with plans for some component upgrades and possibly a change of venue to a more austere outdoor location. Community interest is still strong, with several individuals already expressing desire to be enrolled. With a strong base to build upon, it is anticipated that next year’s course will be even more successful than this year’s venture.

With thanks to the USC SOMG for use of their simulation space, the Prisma Upstate Department of Emergency Medicine, AWLS faculty, and of course all of the excellent students who enrolled, the course was a hit.

Practice wilderness trauma simulations
Students gather to learn the principles of litter building
Nat Mann, MD

Clinical Assistant Professor

USC School of Medicine Greenville

Director of Wilderness Medicine

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