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Nurses are some of the most versatile, widely skilled healthcare professionals, so if you’re a nurse that loves to camp and backpack, now may be the right time to add some wilderness medicine skills to your professional toolkit.

Nurses say they like spending their free time traveling, exercising, and exploring the great outdoors. But spending time outdoors can be dangerous. Without expert guides, it’s easy to get in trouble that may require medical assistance.

Skill Development

As a nurse, you always try to improve your skillset and widen your knowledge base. Usually, this means that you’re learning about the newest breakthroughs in nursing equipment or are improving your tech literacy to serve your patients better.

Wilderness medicine is an excellent tool for nurses to add to their current repertoire. It reinforces your ability to provide high-quality care away from the hospital environment and adapt and overcome challenges.

Emergency physician Seth Hawkins explains that wilderness medicine provides care “in circumstances where the surrounding environment has more power over our well-being.” This may mean you learn to assess an injury mid-hike or improvise a splint after a friend twists an ankle.

Learning these skills can be fun, too. You replace your usual scrubs with shorts and sunscreen and head out onto the open trail with other like-minded nurses. Learning wilderness medicine forces you to think on your feet and improvise solutions.

Hopefully, you’ll never be in a situation where you need to use your wilderness medicine. However, it will still look great on your CV and show hiring managers that you’re keen to learn more and develop your skills.

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Career Progression

Career development opportunities in nursing can take a lot of work. You’re always working 12-hour shifts, and the thought of adding professional development to an already busy workload can be overwhelming.

However, a growth mindset is key to succeeding as a nurse, as you’ll need to embrace change and find the right career development opportunities.

If the thought of donning a suit and attending college classes again fills you with dread, you may opt for a wilderness medicine course. You can learn from groups like the Wilderness Medicine Society or apply to your local search and rescue team to learn new skills and find a career path that suits your interests.

Even if you choose to stay in the hospital environment, a wilderness medicine course will continue to serve you well when you run into emergencies outside work.

Dealing with Emergencies Outside of Work

As a nurse, you probably get bombarded with health questions and queries all day. It’s almost as though you’re on speed dial for friends with a funky-looking wart or a twisted ankle. Most of the time, you can tell your friends and family that their leg isn’t going to fall off and that they need to rest up. However, when an emergency does occur, you should be ready.

You don’t have to be on a trailhead to use these skills. At its core, wilderness medicine teaches you to adapt to the current situation. This means you’re ready when a family member has a serious accident at home or your camping buddy feels unwell after eating an undercooked meal.

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Learning wilderness medicine can also help you serve your community. Whether you realize it or not, the folks in your area know you’re a nurse and will come to you if they can’t get to an A&E department. So, when a disaster strikes your area, wilderness medicine can help you answer the call and serve the folks around you.

Disaster Response

The number of natural disasters has increased from an average of 3 per year to 13 per year in the past three decades. This should be a significant concern for us all, as natural disasters cut communities from critical infrastructure like hospitals and healthcare.

During a disaster, many communities are forced to become self-sufficient. As a nurse, you can improve the self-sufficiency of your community by sharing wilderness medicine knowledge. This goes hand in hand with disaster response when folks may be injured or need medical help due to sickness.

Getting involved with wilderness medicine can also improve the resilience of local businesses and infrastructure in your area. During your wilderness medicine training, you’ll learn how to do without the equipment. Sharing this knowledge can help vulnerable businesses make contingency plans to invest in backup generators and create strategies to help navigate disasters successfully.


Wilderness medicine training looks excellent on your CV and can be a real asset under pressure. Wilderness medicine teaches you to adapt to the current environment and may even save lives in an emergency. You can also use wilderness medicine to support your community, as your skills will be invaluable following a natural disaster or local healthcare crisis.

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Amanda Winstead
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