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Wilderness Medicine Course Syllabus

It was excellent to learn the skills of evaluating a casualty in the real world before starting clinical rotations. I feel much better prepared.
-MSIV 2007

Students in action during course


  • Introduction to Austere Medicine
  • Introduction to Hopkins elective
  • Introduction to the Concept of Team    

Review of Medicine and Physiology

  • Exercise physiology
  • Physiologic mechanisms of heat exchange
  • Physics and physiology of altitude
  • Physics and physiology of depth
  • Nutrition in extreme environments
  • CPR review

Wilderness Medicine Planning Considerations

  • Weather
  • Children, pregnant women and elderly in the wilderness
  • Chronic medical conditions in the wilderness
  • Death and dying in wilderness travel
  • Planning for individual and group travel
  • Immunizations for exotic travel


  • Clothing for extreme environments
  • Medical kits for wilderness travel
  • Foot gear
  • Stoves
  • Backpacking gear and skills
  • Shelter and exposure control
  • Vector control, repellants, and barriers
  • Safety and security while traveling
  • Compass and map reading

Wilderness Public health Issues

  • Wilderness water procurement and treatment
  • Field sanitation and hygiene

Laws and Ethics of the Wilderness

  • Standards of care
  • Duty to act
  • Good Samaritan Laws
  • Negligence
  • Patient Rights

(Civil Rights, Consent and Implied Consent,
Right to Refuse care, Minors)

Wilderness Medicine

  • The basic approach to ANY emergency situation
  • Medical assessment of the wilderness traveler
    • Scene size-up
    • Triaging
    • Initial Assessment (Primary Survey: A,B,C,D,E)
    • Focused Exam (Vital Signs, Hx, PE, Documentation)
    • Ongoing Assessment
    • Relaying Assessment and Plan
  • The evaluation and management of trauma in the field
  • Wound cleaning, closure, dressing, and infection treatment
  • Shock/Homeostasis
  • Sports medicine (sprains, strains, dislocations, and breaks)
  • Field dentistry
  • Foot care
  • Environmental Illnesses
    • Anaphylaxis
    • Solar protection
    • Lightning strikes and burns
    • Near drowning and submersion
    • Heat related illness and dehydration
    • Cold related illness
    • High altitude disorders
    • Dysbarisms and barotraumas
    • Avalanche
  • Infectious Disease
    • Traveler's diarrhea
    • Tick-borne illnesses
    • Viral hemorrhagic fevers
    • Malaria
    • Parasites and protozoa
    • Antibiotic selection
  • Altered consciousness
  • Pain management
  • When Animals (and Plants) Attack
    • Marine creatures
    • Mammalian attacks
    • Reptile envenomation
    • Insect and arachnid envenomation
    • ​Plant dermatitis

Course Conclusion

  • Course critique
  • Final exam and review

Practical Sessions

  • Group Dynamics
  • Map and compass reading
  • Orienteering
  • Patient simulations
  • Wound management
  • Reductions and splinting
  • Knot tying
  • Spine protection & de-crumpling
  • Carries & Litters
  • MedWars
  • Mass Casualty Triage
  • Shelter Building