First Descents (FD) programs are attended by a wide range of young adults impacted by cancer and other life altering conditions. In order to practice sound risk management, FD asks program applicants to submit an application with accompanying medical information and authorization from their medical provider. Led by a team of volunteer medical professionals, FD then carefully conducts a medical review of each application. The medical review enables FD to better understand each applicant’s medical history and current needs, and ensures that each applicant is matched with the appropriate program and outdoor activity. This process ensures everyone’s safety, well-being and success.
At programs, FD ensures that we have the adequate number of staff with relevant qualifications in place. All FD Lead Staff for example, must have outdoor certifications and outdoor experience, including a base minimum of Wilderness First Aid. FD also works with the best outfitters, including those with the experience, qualifications and local knowledge to ensure a safe and impactful experience for everyone.
At FD’s Week-Long programs there is a Medical Volunteer. The Medical Volunteer’s role is an important one and adds an additional layer of safety and risk management during and off activity hours. The Medical Volunteer’s role is to understand each Participant’s medical history prior to the program and to assess the medical well-being of each individual, and the group as a whole. The Medical Volunteer plays a supportive role to FD Lead Staff and should contribute to all staff and outfitter meetings. Medical Volunteers are able to help with many program activities, and can often provide helpful insights into the program experience, given their healthcare background or activity-specific expertise. In the event of an emergency, FD’s protocol is to always call 9-1-1. In that situation, the Medical Volunteer may act as a first responder and provide support until emergency medical services are reached. The majority of FD’s programs are front country, meaning they are accessible by road and emergency medical services and/or not far from a hospital.
The majority of incidents that occur at a program are minor in nature and typical to an outdoor setting. Common incidents include bumps, sprains, insect bites, altitude illness, fatigue and dehydration etc. However, careful consideration must also be given to the fact that many Participants have continued effects from their condition and/or treatment (i.e. fatigue, exhaustion, neuropathy, amputations, seizures etc.). Sometimes adaptations to the schedule or program must be made.
Medical Volunteers are an invaluable part of FD’s staff/volunteer model and FD welcomes seasoned medical professionals to apply! See below for who qualifies as a Medical Volunteer.
Physicians, Physician Assistants, Nurses, Paramedics, EMTs and Mid-Level Providers
FD welcomes any of the above-mentioned medical professionals to apply as a Medical Volunteer. These medical professionals provide the necessary medical expertise and background to ensure a safe program experience. FD provides basic medical supplies, including emergency medical kits at programs. Additional medical supplies can be brought at the Medical Volunteer’s discretion.
*Medical Volunteers are responsible for monitoring the group and acting as a first responder in the event of an emergency situation. Because of this, FD asks all Medical Volunteers to ensure they’re acting within their training and expertise. Good samaritan laws typically apply. That being said, FD expects its Medical Volunteers to understand the limitations of their license as it pertains to volunteering in a different state. For questions, exceptions, or further information about this, please contact Paul Kelly at [email protected].
FD uses an online, pre-program screening process to best-fit applicants with a specific program. We are always looking for qualified medical professionals to support this process. If interested, please review the Medical Reviewer Volunteer Description and apply!
Larry O. Smith, MD, FACEP
Medical Director, First Descents