The call of the wild has always drawn people to explore remote and physically challenging areas. With the growing popularity of adventure tourism and extreme sports, the lure of the wilderness is as strong as ever, and as potentially risky.
To ensure adventurers in remote or demanding environments get the best care possible, a growing segment of healthcare providers are becoming certified in a relatively new subspecialty called wilderness medicine.
Wilderness medicine began as a specialty to treat patients in high altitudes. Today, it draws from multiple disciplines including emergency medicine, environmental medicine, travel medicine, and sports medicine. At the heart of the practice of wilderness medicine is the ability to improvise in a remote environment with limited resources. A wilderness medicine specialist has received unique training to handle ailments that occur in the wild such as:
Wilderness medicine fellowships typically combine advanced clinical training in environmental emergencies such as frostbite, high altitude sickness, and hyper- or hypothermia, along with training in how to stabilize and evacuate sick or injured patients, and how to improvise under extreme situations and severe time constraints. Depending on the institution, participants may learn water rescue techniques, technical mountain climbing techniques using ropes and pulleys, and/or avalanche rescue techniques, among other skills.
There are many skills in this field that also are useful in humanitarian work, disaster relief, foreign clinic work, and other such situations, and there are many parallels between expedition and military medicine.