WFR classes teaches practical, marketable skills to students

Dylan Tull

The Wilderness First Responder (WFR) training attracts a large number of Whitman students every year. The 80-hour course, offered by Whitman Medicine Institute of NOLS every January and March, takes students through class and hands-on learning in order to educate them about medical practice in the outdoor environment. This weekend, just under 30 students met at Reid for a three day WFR re-certification course.

Credit: Nico Farrell

Despite the $600 fee to attend the course, the WFR program is popular among Whitman students because it is becoming a common requirement for outdoor jobs and programs, including Whitman’s own Outdoor Program. Through WFR, students gain the skills one is expected to have to lead OP Trips and find outdoor-focused jobs such as summer camp leadership.

Sophomore Sam Kirsch spoke about the options that WFR opens up in terms of future wilderness job opportunities.

“It looks great on a resumé. It’s good for outdoor jobs. I’m excellently qualified for anything I want to do with leading trips of high school kids and going camping or anything like that. That’s what I hope to do this summer,” he said.

Sophomore Will Seymour signed up for WFR because he was titillated by the possibilities of jobs that would become available to him after the training.

“I’m interested in becoming a Registered Nurse, and possibly Search and Rescue, so it was a great way to get an idea of what wilderness medicine is like,” he said.

According to sophomore Kemper Brightman, the Whitman Outdoor Program also values the WFR program highly.

“All the scramble leaders hired this year have WFR. It’s sort of becoming increasingly necessary to be a scramble leader and lead outdoor trips,” he said.

First-year Chelan Pauly’s reasoning for taking WFR was also tied heavily to leading a scramble.

“I wanted to do WFR so that I could be a lot more involved in the OP and have the opportunity to help lead OP trips and do scrambles. And also to get involved in the outdoor program, the outdoor community of people and meet people that do outdoor stuff at Whitman,” she said.

Another benefit that Whitman students take from WFR, are the skills themselves. Kirsch talked about the importance of knowing medical practices for the outdoors.

“I took WFR because specialized medical knowledge is pretty hard to come by, but if you have it and you ever need to use it, you’re going to want to have it. You’re going to want to know what you do for someone with a punctured lung, what you do for someone who is bleeding out, how do you make a sling, a cast,” he said.   “This is just all stuff that it’s responsible to know as a person who   wants to  [help]  other people if they’re ever hurt.”

While there are job opportunities and skill sets gained from being WFR certified, there was some disagreement among participants on whether the cost of the class is justified.

“I guess it’s fairly exclusive, I think based on its cost. Which is unfortunate, because they are skills that I feel like everyone should have if they are interested in going outside. I guess it was also interesting with the OP, the fact that everyone has WFR. It just sort of says something about they have really high standards, because it’s essentially required,” Brightman said.

While Pauly agreed that the cost was a slight downside, she emphasized that WFR training is worth it.

“I think it’s really important that people take WFR, before they go out and lead a bunch of trips because it teaches you a lot. And I think it’s a really valuable class, so it’s probably worth the cost, but it’s definitely a downside that you have to pay [$600].”

Credit: Nico Farrell