A group of medical students is returning from the wilderness
after completing a novel teaching course designed to develop their
skills and experience in delivering clinical care to casualties in
The six week course 'Wilderness Medicine' is delivered as part
of the penultimate year of study for medical students at Newcastle
University. It was developed by Dr Richard Hardern, an Emergency
Medicine consultant at the University Hospital of North Durham and
was the first of its kind to be running in the UK.
Dr Hardern explains: "This is a novel approach to enhancing the
students' capability to provide clinical care in a remote or
expedition environment, using a structured approach to respond to
emergencies. The students also benefit from learning enhanced
generic skills and knowledge to increase their ability to respond
effectively to clinical and non-clinical situations, whatever the
environment. This includes teamwork, leadership, communication,
teaching, risk management and time management. They also get used
to dealing with stressful and demanding situations.
"The vast majority of the course content is relevant to
'standard' practice. Although students do learn about, for example,
snake bites, they spend most of their time learning how to assess
and treat an acutely ill or injured patient. This knowledge and the
associated skills are directly relevant in any specialty with
"We usually only spend about five days of the course in the
classroom and the rest is 'scenario-based teaching'. We use this
extensively on the course and it is extremely effective for good
learning outcomes and maintaining motivation.
"For example, a student might find it is one thing to be able to
carry out a primary survey indoors, with good lighting, but it is
very different outdoors in the dark, cold and wet. So, as well as
helping to maintain motivation, the settings have proved to be a
good in terms of focusing students on high-quality physical
examinations - there are no monitors, X-rays or blood tests to help
them with their diagnosis or monitoring."
The course first ran in 2007 and has since been repeated in
2008, 2010 and this year. It is a "student selected component"
which is a part of the undergraduate course for medical students.
It is not compulsory but is chosen by the students and it is
proving to be so popular that capacity on the course was increased
this year to accommodate 12 students rather than eight.
Dr Hardern said: "The students are selected through a formal
application process, including a selection centre, as the course is
oversubscribed. They are selected on the basis of motivation,
experience and personality. I deliver a lot of teaching
personally but we use external instructors too: as well as other
clinicians with an interest in the wilderness they include members
of Teesdale & Weardale Search & Mountain Rescue Team, the
leader of a recent Everest expedition, and ex-military
Published: 14 April 2011
'The treatment I have received from all the staff has been
excellent and could you extend my thanks to them all. A very
thankful and relieved patient'.
Patient, Dermatology Outpatients Department, University Hospital
of North Durham