Student Perspective: WEMT Graduate Offers Advice to Incoming Students

RMI alum Lucas Pellant (above) used his WEMT to work as a backcountry ranger in Yosemite National Park.

Every year hundreds of students become WEMT certified through Remote Medical International® courses in Washington and California. After twenty-six days and over 200 hours of training at a residential learning facility, RMI grads re-enter the world with the skills necessary to provide professional medical care in remote and austere environments. As EMTs in National Parks, ambulances, and commercial vessels throughout the world, our grads have a great deal of wisdom to share with incoming WEMT students.

Dozens of recently enrolled WEMT students call our Seattle headquarters daily to ask questions and share their excitement about the course. These calls are some of our favorites, and we’re always happy to expand on our students’ frequently asked questions. But we also know that it’s helpful for our students to hear directly from the source. This month, we spoke with 2009 WEMT graduate Lucas Pellant about the challenges and successes he experienced as a WEMT student and beyond. Check out the interview below for some additional insight into the student experience:

Why did you decide to take our WEMT course?

I was working on San Juan Island with the National Historical Park doing law enforcement with the Park Service.  In the off-season I was also working at Snoqualmie pass for the security department. Both of those jobs had me wearing a lot of different hats—everything from law enforcement to firefighting, and everything I was doing had a remote aspect to it. I decided that I wanted to have more wilderness training, and that’s how I found RMI.

A few weeks before every course we tend to get a lot of calls from nervous students. How did you feel before heading to Leavenworth?

I actually felt OK about it. I only had a First Responder and no wilderness medicine experience, but I was just really excited. I knew it would mean a lot for my job and my career—turns out I was right.

What was your favorite part of the WEMT?

Hands-on scenarios are always the best. Putting my hands on things is where I tend to learn the most. We had an injured hiker scenario that we had to hang out with for a couple of hours at night time in a makeshift shelter. Trying to drive around in the back of an ambulance taking blood pressure, now that I’m working on an amubalnce, all of that comes back into play.

What did you find most challenging?

Pressure of performing was stressful, and there was a little test anxiety, but that’s just part of it. The teachers did a great job of making sure everyone knew what they were doing before moving on. So it was challenging, but the teachers helped us move through it together.

What advice would you give to a student who’s considering taking a WEMT?

The biggest hurdle was the price tag but it was worth every penny I would do it again in a heartbeat. Yeah, the price tag is high but it comes with a lot of knowledge and education that transfers into the real world. It’s not just something you sit in a classroom, get out a piece of paper, and take a test at the end. It’s much more than that. Don’t be scared of the cost – just do it.

What about an enrolled student who’s nervous to take course?

Keep up on the reading – time management is crucial to completing the course and to take away the most knowledge you have to be able to manage your time and stay on top of the material. You might pass but you want ot make sure you have the information you need to take it to the next level. There’s a lot of reading on one month.

So you took the course, passed the tests, and then what?

Right after the course I got a job doing search and rescue at Yosemite. I spent six months as a backcountry ranger stationed at the halfway point on the Half Dome trail which is one of the busiest backcountry trails in the park system.  I was based out of the Little Yosemite Valley Ranger Station, and we were averaging over twenty EMS calls per month.  There were collapsed lungs, heart attacks, suicides, broken ankles, dehydration, hypothermia—all kinds of stuff.

Were you prepared?

Oh, absolutely. A lot of the things we did at RMI, some of those mental pictures came back into play. I remember sitting on the side of a mountain with a helicopter over me thinking: “What should I do next?” And it all came back

Tell me more about this helicopter.

I was a spotter looking for a diabetic man who had been missing for four days. We were flying around in a five-seater hanging out the doors trying to find him. When we finally located him, the helicopter put us down and we took off on foot for a mile up canyon. I found the guy and did a patient assessment, packaged him up, and got him back into the helicopter. This exact situation was talked about in class, and it definitely helped me from freezing up in the moment.

Where are you working now?

I currently work for Tri-Med ambulance company in South King County, Washington. It’s a total different environment, but I still find myself remembering tips and trick I learned from RMI.  That’s the cool thing—the WEMT had a ton of emphasis on wilderness environments and being in the elements, but it also focused on what it would take to work in an urban environment. After being in the wilderness and the back of a busy ambulance, I can definitely say that RMI taught me everything I needed to know

And what’s next?

I’d actually like to pick back up with the park service. A lot of park rangers are also paramedics, so I want to go to medic school.

Thanks for checking in with us, Lucas.

Anytime. Keep up the good work.