An Examination of Wilderness First Aid Knowledge, Self-Efficacy, and Skill Retention


  • Scott Schumann The University of Utah
  • Tod Schimelpfenig Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS
  • Jim Sibthorp The University of Utah
  • Rachel H. Collins The University of Utah


Despite increasing interest in wilderness medicine certification and a growing number of training providers, no research has examined knowledge, self-efficacy (self-confidence in one's knowledge or skill), and skill retention after wilderness medicine courses. A Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course is an introductory, 16 hour course intended for non-medical professionals engaging in outdoor recreation or working in remote locations. The intended setting for use of WFA skills is an outdoor location where evacuations are primarily by walking or carryout with the assistance of local resources, and where local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) access is expected in a timely manner (< 8 hours). Examples include day hikes or overnight backpacking trips, stationary wilderness camps, college student outings, and front-country outdoor recreation (Johnson, D. et al., 2010). WFA course content typically focuses on performing a basic patient assessment to identify obvious injuries or abnormalities, and to assess basic and obvious signs, symptoms, and vital sign patterns.