Bushcraft First Aid PART 1 (Video)

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

Bushcraft first aid or wilderness first aid is important when outdoors. The most basic first aid skills are learning how to observe and properly assess a patient. Most outdoor incidences are minor and easily treatable. Most first aid and the wilderness has the goal of keeping the condition from worsening so that you can either continue outdoors or so that you can make it to professional medical help.

Some basic steps in bushcraft first aid are below.

  1. Is the area safe? If you have a patient that had a tree fall on them and there were still some parts of the tree hanging off another tree, this might be considered a dangerous situation. First assess if you can safely provide first aid care. It isn’t safe to help a patient that’s sitting next to a rattlesnake. So, if the situation isn’t safe, you can’t provide care until the patient is able to be moved. Sometimes the patient can move themselves away from the dangerous situation, sometimes the patient can be moved away with assistance, and sometimes it isn’t safe to move the patient at all. In the case of a tree hanging off of another tree and your patient is under part of that tree, it isn’t safe if for you or the patient to move. In the case of the rattlesnake, if the patient can move themselves away from the snake safely, at a safe distance then first aid can be administered. The last thing that we need is two patients.
  2. Once you are in a safe area away from any threats, identify any life-threatening issues. These are usually pretty obvious things like a massive gash to the inner thigh with blood spurting out of it or a gunshot wound to the chest. This isn’t always the case but typically it is in an outdoor wilderness hiking situation. Another potentially life-threatening issue is a venomous snake bite, being stung by a bee if the person is allergic or ingesting a poisonous plant unknowingly. These aren’t obvious signs of life-threatening issues but with further investigation and dialogue with the patient they can be uncovered quickly.
  3. As you talk with the patient do a focused exam head to toe. Take their pulse, count their breaths in a minute, check their eyes to see if the pupils are equal and reactive, see if they understand what’s going on round them, and take a full history of their medical issues. It’s very important to take down any information the patient gives you so having a waterproof notebook and grease pencil will be very helpful when relaying to other medical authorities the condition of the patient. If you do have medical equipment, such as pulse oximeter for blood pressure, use those to get further information. Gather as much quantifiable data as possible to provide to the next care provider so that the outcome is positive.
  4. Make a list of the medical problems which are urgent, and below that, a medical chronic issue list. The urgent problems need to be dealt with immediately so make a care plan. If a patient has diarrhea, then the care plan could be something like plenty of rehydration fluid, medication, or known natural herbs to help slow down the diarrhea. If the patient is unable to continue on due to a serious issue that is life threatening, such as a venomous snake bite, ingestion of a poisonous mushroom, a bee sting allergy, or anything else, then an evacuation plan should be put together. The wilderness is not a great place to try and treat life threatening illnesses, injuries, or accidents. The goal is to keep the person alive in the situation until they can be evacuated safely.
  5. Put your care plan into action providing medical and emotional support to the patient. The patient may be scared to be evacuated since a helicopter ride might be involved or the patient may be afraid to leave the group or his family. These are all barriers to proper treatment and need to be assessed and dealt with. On top of this you have to continue to provide physical medical care such as medication, changes of dressing, pressure on wounds, and so on. You must also continuously monitor how the patient is doing taking vitals at regular intervals.


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