On a very cold February weekend, Andy and Chris, Managing Director and Head of Education for CIPHER Medical Consultancy were invited to Woodlore, the first School of Wilderness and Bushcraft established by Ray Mears in 1983.

The expert instructors at Woodlore teach bushcraft skills such as shelter building, fire starting, tree and plant recognition and much more, such as navigation skills, wilderness survival and cooking with wild food. Although delegates are closely supervised and expertly tutored, as with any responsible company working with members of the public it is important that their tutors are trained in first aid and essential life-saving skills.

Fortunately for Andy and Chris when they ventured to the training area in the South East they found the staff to be already highly competent in basic first aid skills and could therefore concentrate on more in-depth trauma and life-support skills while refreshing the essential first aid skills required by the Health and Safety Executive to achieve the first aid at work certificate.

On day one, after setting up camp at about 5pm in temperatures of around 1°C and a tasty brew around the already burning campfire, the team all gathered at the classroom area where Keith Whitehead, the lead instructor at Woodlore and Ray Mears led the introductions and gave a presentation about the interesting history and development of Woodlore, their future and also discussed real-life examples of the importance of being competent about dealing with emergencies in the wilderness.

Ray Mears CIPHER campfire
CIPHER bear attack simulation for Ray Mears

Little did the staff know that the CIPHER team had set-up a little surprise in the form of a simulated bear attack!

By now, it was dark and around -3°C.Using SIMBODIES, a hyper-realistic mannequin created by the TraumaFX team in Thirsk, North Yorkshire,and distributed in the UK & Ireland by CIPHER Medical.

Andy and Chris wanted to ascertain the level of training the Woodlore instructors already had by finding out how they coped with a casualty who had received multiple life-threating injuries.

The answer was very well! The two new members of staff, with limited first aid experience, were utilised in appropriate ways,such as fetching equipment and lifting and carrying, while CIPHER team found the established Woodlore instructors knowledgeable about first aid and working well as a team to ensure the casualty was treated and evacuated expediently. Ray, observing his team in action, chipped in with his expertise on the subject and how different species of bear will have different attack patterns and some may return and have the first aid team for lunch! It quickly became apparent that the CIPHER team would learn as much as they taught on this course!

CIPHER teaching life threatening injuries
CIPHER medical training equipment

After another cold start to the final day it seemed apt to discuss thermal illnesses like hypothermia amongst other topics such as choking, anaphylactic shock and basic bandaging skills for those who were relatively new to first aid. Chris also covered poisoning, a daunting subject which Ray has heavily studied, however things like drug and alcohol abuse cross class and national boundaries world-wide, so recognition of these problems is unfortunately essential learning for any first aider. After a short teaching session on snake-bites, Adders are common in the Woodlore area, and for those instructors who could potentially end up on remote expeditions, Ray volunteered to provide an impromptu lecture on the different types of snakes in different continents and areas such as bushland or jungles, the physiology of how the venom leads to serious illness or death and the current treatments available. One of the students also described their near-death experience of being bitten by a snake in their former life in the forces on deployment in a jungle environment. Again, Chris and Andy became students rather than teachers, however using the experience of the group to enhance learning is a valuable educational tool that enriches any course; indeed, Ray took time to demonstrate to Andy the problem of using adhesive dressings in the humidity of the jungle and how they can be adhered using a plant extract.

The final scenario that Andy and Chris set the group was based on the weekends’ learning and culminated with a multiple casualty incident where one casualty (the SIMBODIES) had been bitten by an adder and Andy, stripped down into T-shirt and shorts, played his running companion who went on to develop hypothermia. The patient in the SIMBODIES scenario developed anaphylactic shock from the bite and progressed into cardiac arrest, thus testing the groups learning of poisoning/snake-bite, anaphylactic shock, CPR and AED defibrillation treatment while other members of the group had to work to treat a conscious but deteriorating hypothermic patient.

At the end of the weekend when the CIPHER and Woodlore teams said our goodbyes it was great to note that both teams had learned a lot from the weekend. This type of innovative bespoke teaching is what CIPHER is all about, and the fantastic knowledge we gained from Ray and the team at Woodlore will compliment and augment future courses both back at Woodlore and your company.

CIPHER medical training for the Woodlore team

For more information about CIPHER Medical or Ray Mears and the Woodlore team visit the links below: