Dec 1, 2010 | Marmot, Winter 2010

The Changing Face of First Aid

I first started with MWSPA in 91-92 season. Back in those days all you needed to be on the ski patrol was a red jacket and a Standard First Aid ticket.

Standard first aid was an entry level course, typically eight hours of training, which covered the basics of ABC management, and bandaids but not much more. My background was from an industrial setting where Industrial First Aid was the standard. {Now called OFA3} IFA was an 80 hour course with typically another 80 hours homework time.

Shortly after joining the patrol I was approached by a member of the Board of Directors and asked to become a member of the board. I was elected at the very next AGM and was pressed into service to get the Patrol Chalet finished. I was put in charge as Project Manager.

With an army of about 15-20 dedicated volunteers and a few professionals that we managed to swing deals with, as well as one dedicated Patroller that was our builder, we managed to complete the chalet and still do all of our patrol duties as well.

As the chalet was nearing completion the Board started to look toward the future. We produced a document called Patrol 2000, which looked forward to the year 2000 when we hoped our standard for First Aid would rise significantly. This was visionary thinking for which we can thank the late John Pollack, our President of the day {94-95}.

The idea to raise our requirements was met with fierce resistance within the ranks of some of the old guard. We unfortunately lost some members who refused to comply with the higher standards despite the fact that the higher skills are far more appropriate for the kinds of injuries that we deal with on a regular basis.

As a First Aid Instructor I was supportive of the requisite upgrades but was also aware of the financial burden this placed on our members. It was around this time that we began to hear about a course that the National Ski Patrol of the United States was offering that might be compatible with the standards that we were setting for our patrol.

When we investigated, we found out that the course was set out on JAMA {Journal of American Medical Association} standards, the same standards that our Occupational First Aid Level 3 is set out on.

So it was that Don Sundquist and I ended up flying down to Colorado to an Instructor Trainer Conference. We had an incredible weekend of training in high end first aid skills, and indeed found that the first aid that we were doing on Mount Washington was indeed compatible with some of the best in the world. We even managed to ski a few turns.

Don and I returned home as the first Instructor Trainers in Canada for the National Ski Patrols WEC (Winter Emergency Care) now called OEC (Outdoor Emergency Care). We began the work of spreading the knowledge we had gained by offering Instructor Courses not only on our mountain, but also on other mountains such as Whistler/ Blackcomb, Grouse, and Silver Star.

The Instructors began putting on courses all over the province indeed all over the country. By the year 2000 the transition was complete: OFA3 became our minimum standard and OEC following our local protocols of OFA3, became an affordable way to carry the equivalent certification without the financial burden OFA3 puts on the membership.

Standard First Aid was no longer good enough nor was Wilderness First Aid. Now, ten years later, the quality of the average Volunteer Patroller is much higher. We have Paramedics, Trauma Nurses, SAR techs, PCP and much more. We have a highly skilled professional workforce that offers great value to Mount Washington.

I am proud to be associated with such a diverse group of highly skilled and professional individuals. When I look to the future I see the Patrol ever growing and evolving. We have made great strides so far. We continue to see changes in protocols and equipment, upgrades in skills, and an incredible range of talent from newcomers to our organization.

It is a dynamic and changing organization. Accepting changes and current protocols, as part of what it takes to move forward. Always good to stay current.

Tim Baker
Mount Washington Ski Patrol Association

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