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How Emergency Medical Responders Work

        Health | ER

EMRs in the Field
Wildnerness emergency training is incredibly important -- not only for hikers and campers, but also for people who live far from hospitals.
Wildnerness emergency training is incredibly important -- not only for hikers and campers, but also for people who live far from hospitals.
Warren Goldswain/iStock/Thinkstock

Sara Gosa, president of her high school Red Cross Youth Club in Los Angeles, got her EMR certification at the minimum age of 16 and immediately began putting it to use. As an EMR, she was qualified to volunteer to help staff Red Cross stations at a host of public events, including the famed Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade. Although her duties there as a newly qualified EMR amounted to little more than ensuring that parade participants stayed hydrated, such small preventive measures can be important. Urban EMRs are often helpful aides to their more highly trained colleagues, like EMTs and paramedics. In fact, volunteering as an EMR is, for some, the first step on the road to becoming a professional medic.

But the farther outside city limits you go, the more crucial EMRs become. It's in remote locations that training as an emergency medical responder can be critically important. When you're deep in the forest cutting trees, or far down a mining shaft, or out in the northern tundra hunting or back-country hiking, the chances that there's a paramedic around are slim. Professional medical personnel go where the jobs are. But EMRs are a different matter. A relatively minor investment of time and money can gain you the basic skills that could mean the difference between life and death for a person who's injured far from professional medical care.

Wilderness EMR training takes longer than basic EMR courses. The Center for Wilderness Safety based in Sterling, Virginia, for instance, offers a 72- to 80-hour training course, usually spread out over eight or nine days. Within this format, instructors lead students through hands-on scenarios to help them learn how to deal with issues that apply to medical emergencies in remote locations — in particular, the need for prolonged patient care [source: The Center for Wilderness Safety].

When something goes wrong far from a hospital, it could take a long time before the patient reaches an emergency department. Sixteen-year-old EMR Sam Boas learned that the hard way in the Alaskan bush.


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