UND medical students get hands on training at Turtle River State Park – Grand Forks Herald

TURTLE RIVER STATE PARK — A group of UND medical school students got a hands-on course in providing emergency care in the wilderness, over the weekend of Saturday, May 30.

It was the first such course of its kind, and was presented to the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences’ emergency medicine department. The Advanced Wilderness Life Support (AWLS) course not only taught students emergency medical care for hikers and campers, but was a bonding experience that course leaders say helped participants develop bonds that will give them an edge in their studies.

“It was absolutely amazing, the students really enjoyed themselves,” said Justin Reisenauer, a physician with Sanford Health in Bismarck and faculty member for the department of emergency medicine. “From a faculty standpoint, it was very rewarding. You could see (the students) accelerate throughout the weekend as far as quickly catching on to the wilderness concepts, improvising different types of techniques to stabilize and treat people out in the wilderness.”

The course was organized by Reisenauer and Jon Solberg, chair of the emergency medicine department. Along with a variety of other faculty members from a neurologist to critical care surgeons, they led a course for about 25 medical students in how to respond to medical emergencies that typically happen outside the 911 service call area.

According to Reisenauer, the course included training models to teach students how to “assess and stabilize victims in austere environments,” outside of the clinic or hospital. That meant learning how to improvise splints for fractured or broken bones, how to respond to life-threatening bleeding events and then how to transport a person to an area more accessible by emergency medical services.

Students and instructors worked through the rain on Saturday, learning the new techniques, then went through testing scenarios the following day — in better weather conditions. No dummies were used, so students had to play the “victim” while they underwent treatment. Reisenauer said they responded well to the training.

“I feel confident knowing that if they came across me (in the wilderness) next week, next month, next year that they would know what to do,” Reisenauer said.

Solberg lauded the hands-on nature of the course, as some medical curriculum is hands off for first and second-year students.

“The skills learned here will undoubtedly help our students and faculty save a life outside the hospital someday.”

The AWLS course is not an elective available through the SMHS but an extracurricular opportunity for medical students not offered anywhere else in the state. The certification provided by the course was developed by AdventureMed, a Colorado-based firm that trains and certifies health providers of all backgrounds, first responders, and other agencies in wilderness medicine.

Reisenauer said getting the students outside and working together was just what the doctor ordered, after having had to study remotely through portions of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the students may not have known their own classmates because of distance learning, and a part of medical school, he said, is building support mechanisms with peers when faced with learning vast amounts of information. The camaraderie they learned through the AWLS course helped build those mechanisms.

“That was one of my main objectives with the conference as well, and I do think that we achieved that throughout the weekend,” he said.

Reisenauer said he would like to hold the course again, but ultimately he’d like to add a one-month elective course where students can go even deeper into the medical techniques. Given the success of the weekend course, he said it would be a popular option.

“The students loved it, so I’m sure that there’s going to be a demand for it,” he said.

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