WAFA and Leadership


The Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) training was one of my favorite aspects of the Himalayas course so far. After initial struggles of not understanding the material, I was able to study the book, ask questions, and work with my group to gain more confidence. Reflecting on the course material, I am thrilled I was able to gain exposure to these topics. While I did learn CPR 10 years ago, I was not suited to understand the technicalities and stakes of the situation. I was more composed as an adult and felt well-prepared in my training. Specifically, the WAFA was very important to learn since we will be on the trek in less than ten days. Connecting real-life examples for the trek and at home helped me better understand and compartmentalize the teachings. I can positively state that I can survey a scene and follow the WAFA primary survey to understand my patient’s needs. By doing this, I could help save a life before the first responders come to the scene. In our nightly debrief, we all agreed that this was the main objective of the WAFA course and that more classes and recertifications would be needed to grasp all the intricacies. Once this trip is concluded, I plan to continue my WAFA and CPR training, as I see the distinct need for this.

Reflecting on how WAFA connects to leadership, the simple answer is that everything is transferable. To be more specific, our instructors had us apply our learnings to differing scenarios. Having the chance to work with peers and directly apply our learnings is what leadership is all about. Secondly, some of the scenarios were built for us to fail; the point of this was to test our crisis-quick thinking and adaptability. As leaders, we must rely on the scene survey, our training, and improvisation skills in times of crisis. In Pittsburgh, we learned a lot about crisis management and were able to see how we would respond. We also had surprise scenarios. In this case, a patient would appear in the middle of the scene with an injury we were not trained to treat. Collectively, we took aspects from similar cases and made educated guesses to see if they would work. After many mistakes (another prominent aspect of leadership), we were able to help with some conditions we did not know about. After failure, the instructors pinpointed what we did correctly and areas of improvement. While this model was very difficult, I could not think of a better way to teach practical and intense material. 

As I begin to look forward to the trek, I already feel more prepared with this training than I did a few days ago. While I do not know the specific terrain we will be trekking through, I can rely on the guides and the group’s training to prevent further damage if there is an injury. I am thankful this is in the curriculum and see how WAFA will benefit me for years to come.