Wilderness Weekend 2017 was a weekend of adventure and the perfect introduction into wilderness medicine for our group of eager fourth and fifth year medical students. We had the immense privilege of spending time with an awesome cohort of tutors, who shared their incredible stories and experiences with us.

We arrived at Sixtus Lodge in Apiti late on Friday, and spent the evening playing cards and glowworm hunting in the nearby creek. It was a great opportunity to have a few laughs and to get to know the tutors.

We awoke to a fiery red sky, and surrounded by crispy green mountains we hadn’t been able to see in the darkness the night before. Workshops began early, and started off the wilderness theme with a bang! Dick Price, an extraordinary expedition doctor with many years of experience, ran a fun scenario on hypothermia. A couple of tutors positioned themselves within the bush and acted they had been there over all night. Students were split into teams and sent to rescue their hypothermic ‘patients’ with the use of Dick’s extensive first aid kit. Annie Silvester, an orthopedic registrar from Wellington, ran the second workshop on bush rescue. In this scenario students were given only a daypack with a few items to help a patient with a femur fracture, which eventuated to some very creative use of duct tape.

In the afternoon we were treated to a humorous and dynamic scenario from a whole multi-disciplinary team, led by Sara Clark who is the clinical lead at Kaitaia Hospital. The scenario was a bus crash and many ‘patients’ were set up simultaneously. The students were sent sprinting to different corners of the field to respond to screaming ‘patients’ to attend to and fractures and concussion and even a woman in labour, all while ensuring there was one student performing CPR on a dummy the whole time. The stress levels and adrenaline was running high! After that scenario, we were shown how to put a patient with a suspected spinal fracture on a stretcher and the correct way to carry it as a team.

On the Saturdayevening snuggled around the fireplace, we had the immense privilege of hearing inspiring stories from three of our tutors. Branko Sijnja, a long time rural GP and coordinator of the Rural Medical Immersion Programme, spoke with us about his life as a GP and all the funny stories along the way. Jenny Visser, a travel and expedition doctor, shared about her amazing time as an expedition doctors on a ship to Antarctica, and also in the mountains of Nepal. Buzz Burrell, a rural GP who has worked in Australia, Reefton and currently in Blenheim, had us feeling emotional after sharing some beautiful wisdoms that he had learnt throughout the highlights and lowlights of working as a rural GP.  Many students expressed that they found this evening to be one of their highlights of the weekend, as they were able to get very valuable insight into the heart of rural and wilderness medicine.

More fun workshops followed the next morning. Dick Price and Annie Silvester taught us how to perform carries correctly, and how to make improvised stretchers out of rope, tramping bags and tarpaulins. Jenny Visser gave a presentation on wounds and trauma, followed by a tutorial with Branko Sijnja on how to suture. Petra Watson, a orthopedic registrar working in Christchurch and who started Wilderness Weekend 8 years ago, did a workshop on first aid kits and what essentials to bring for wilderness medicine.

Before we knew it, the weekend had flown by and we found ourselves slightly tired, quite muddy and very inspired by the incredible tutors we had spent time with. We also had some sponsors to be grateful for, as without their financial help the weekend wouldn’t have been possible. So thankyou to New Zealand Institute of Rural Health, the Rural Chapter of RNZCGP, Rural Medical Immersion Programme and Rural Health Association New Zealand for their generous sponsorship. These associations provided the fundings for accommodation, groceries for meals and petrol for the driving.

Bring on Wilderness Weekend 2018!

Lydia McMillan- Rural Rep