Wilderness Medicine and Rescue

The Wilderness Medicine and Rescue major is designed for students interested in applying medical, emergency management, and rescue skills to a career in the outdoors. This program seeks to train students for practice in low-resource environments and prepares them for work in fields like backcountry guiding, search and rescue, ski/bike patrol, park ranger service, local and federal government, and more. 

Wilderness Medicine and Rescue is one of the only majors in the country that combines elements of outdoor recreation management, emergency medical services, rescue, and firefighting.
Students in the program work closely with organizations like the Banner Elk Fire Department, Landmark Learning, Beech Mountain Ski Patrol, and Watauga Medical Services.
The program is stacked with possible certifications, including National Registry EMT, North Carolina EMT, Wilderness EMT (WEMT), Wilderness First Responder, to name a few.

What You'll Study

The interdisciplinary program combines courses in emergency medical services and Outdoor Recreation Management with an emphasis on risk management and wilderness medicine. Part of the program includes gaining technical skills in at least five outdoor sports, including hiking and backpacking, rock climbing, mountain biking, or kayaking. You will learn how to conduct rescue operations in low-resource environments likes mountains, forests, and rivers. 

There are a number of certifications you will receive as you go through the program:

  • CPR/AED for the Professional Rescuer | Health and Safety Institute
  • Basic First Aid | Health and Safety Institute
  • Leave No Trace Trainer | Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
  • Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC) | National Ski Patrol
  • Wilderness First Aid (WFA) | National Outdoor Leadership School
  • Wilderness First Responder (WFR) | National Outdoor Leadership School
  • National Registry Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
  • Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT)
  • Wilderness Lifeguard | Starfish Aquatics International
  • Search and Rescue Level 3 | SARTECH
  • Swiftwater Rescue Level 4 | American Canoe Association 

The courses and certifications will prepare you to pursue an exciting career providing medical assistance to outdoor adventurers, or make the transition to paramedic training or medical school. 

Beyond the Classroom

The "classroom" for the Wilderness Medicine and Rescue major is actually the wilderness! From the certification courses to the technical skills classes, you'll spend most of your time in the field, learning how to take charge in intense situations. In addition, Lees-McRae has strong connections with local state parks, the North Carolina Forest Service, Beech Mountain Ski Resort, and various search and rescue operations. You will work closely with professionals in the field, including through in-depth internships. 

After Graduation

Career opportunities include:

  • Backcountry guide
  • Search and rescue
  • Ski patrol
  • Bike patrol
  • Firefighter 
  • Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
  • Wilderness medicine
  • Medical school (through Wilderness Medicine Fellowships)

Partnerships

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Meet the Faculty

Katie Wall, EdD
Associate Professor of Outdoor Recreation Management, Director of the Truist Leadership Initiative

Jim Wall
Adjunct Instructor

Frances Edwards
Adjunct Instructor of Outdoor Recreation Management

 

Ready to take the next step?

We're glad to hear that! Our admissions office is ready to guide you through the process.