Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had the opportunity to practically use the skills and knowledge we have gained through our training thus far. The crew was divided amongst three adventure tour operators with some continuing training in the thrilling craft of riverboarding, others honing their skills in rock climbing and trekking sessions, and a couple getting to assist in a large outdoor education course teaching kids how to abseil.
Time spent with other guides and learning about the operating procedures of these companies has provided us with valuable insight to what it will be like working professionally in this field. A combination of time working as assistant guides, managing reservation systems, and getting a taste for how a day flows has given us a unique chance to practice everything we’ve been learning.
My first week of work experience was with Serious Fun Riverboarding and I had such an awesome time. My days got divided pretty equally between working in the shop in Queenstown and taking clients down the Kawarau River in the mornings and afternoons. In the shop, I learned how their reservation system works, helped with promoting the trips through social media and by creating a video of what a trip looks like from start to finish, and got to say hello and deliver sweets to the lovely people around town that book clients on our trips. River days were my favorite days. We take the clients from the shop in town out to Roaring Meg, get them suited up, explain safety on the river, and then hit the water! We go through three class 3 rapids, surf through 6 km of white water, do a rock jump, then hop out and do it again. I got a feel for guiding in the middle and back of the group, which got me super psyched because I was able to use what I’d learned over the past week of training on the river to help people out of eddies and through the rapids. It was awesome to see my progression from thinking riverboarding was hard and a bit scary to feeling super comfortable in the water and getting to help people enjoy it as well.
Our second week brought me back to the skills we’ve been training more specifically for with two guided day walks. As the lead guide, I got the chance to take four clients up to the Rob Roy Glacier, providing the majority of interpretation along the way. Two of the guys from the crew were my assistant guides, so we all got a bit of experience guiding a client group as a team. We also took six clients on the Routeburn Track to the Flats Hut, dividing the group into pairs, with two of us guiding each pair. I learned a lot this day as we had to fill over four hours of walking with interpretation about the flora and fauna, the geology of the area, and the Maori and European history. This day was also geared around providing the clients with knowledge and skills for them to use in the outdoors, such as navigating using a map, trip planning, safety in the backcountry, and weather considerations. I found this incredibly helpful for consolidating my own understanding of these subjects, as they’re everything we’ll be assessed on for our NZOIA qualifications.
PRE-HOSPITAL EMERGENCY CARE
This past week we completed the most fun course of first aid and emergency care I have ever taken. Over 40 hours of instruction, we learned how to assess a patient from start to finish and treat them accordingly. The body is a super complex combination of systems working together, but by breaking everything down from the problem to the reason why and then to the treatment required, we can provide a lot of care for someone who has suffered trauma.
As we will be working by ourselves in the outdoors with client groups, we need to be comfortable caring for a wide range of possible injuries and conditions without assistance from others trained in emergency first aid. Although first aid kits have a host of super useful tools and equipment, often a lot of emergency medicine in the backcountry has to be improvised with what is available. We learned what we could use to make a splint, how to control the c-spine of someone who may have damaged their spine, and how to handle various traumatic injuries with just what we find in our packs and in the environment.
Our instructor, Nick, from Peak Safety made what could be very dense and boring material exciting and inspiring. He explained that as cool as the body is, first aid isn’t about the physical stuff. First aid is about the connection you forge with the person you have the skills to help. What has happened to our patients has happened, but we get the very unique and special opportunity to remedy what we can. The relationship that forms over that process is unlike much else. As Nick says, “get in and amongst it!”
Personally, the idea of being the only person who can help someone who has been injured or is suffering from something like a heart attack or anaphylaxis used to scare the hell out of me. But after completing the course and getting to a place where I feel like I understand not only what is happening in the body but the process I need to go through in order to help, I’m really excited by emergency first aid. I hope I never have to use what I’ve learned this week, but changes are quite high that I will and I now feel confident in my ability to respond correctly to whatever situation presents itself.
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