Your browser is unsupported

We recommend using the latest version of IE11, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Why Medical Students Should Seek Extreme Rescue Training

Extreme Rescue Training

By April Oertle

“Go to the place that scares you the most and stay there as long as possible.” – My National Outdoor Leadership School Instructor, Mark Crawford, 2017

Medical school does not teach compassion or empathy. These skills can only be gained if you have the privilege to experience how others live, including how others can come in harm’s way. Being a doctor means being an educator and fantastic educators connect with their students. Being a better educator means continuing to be a learner yourself. Participating in extreme trainings matter. They matter for the student doctor, as well as the established doctor’s personal and professional growth. They matter to their patients and in connecting to another human being.

Picking up a 22-pound Cutquik saw, yanking on the cord, giving the powerful machine life, and then placing the long blade against metal, immersing myself in a sea of sparks, I could wonder why I was the one cutting through sheet metal of a simulated grain bin trying to decrease the amount of stored grain. I could wonder what brought me there, but I’d rather think about what I brought back.

I have taken two advanced courses with Stateline Farm Rescue: Tractor Rollover Extrication and Grain Bin Entrapment. These courses were designed and tailored for fire departments. Another medical student and I were the only ones present for these trainings who were not affiliated with a fire department. Mark Baker, owner of Stateline Farm Rescue, welcomed us to these trainings.

I met Mr. Baker through RMED where we participated in a field trip to his farm and did a minor simulated grain rescue. When I first spoke to Mr. Baker and expressed my interest in taking more courses, he was confused. He didn’t understand why I wanted to take more courses with him. I told him I wanted more experience and more exposure to these traumatic farming incidents. I wanted to learn how these emergencies are managed in order to become a more effective physician and team player in the future.

Being submerged in corn is incredibly frightening. I know because I was a simulated victim multiple times, however not for more than 15 minutes. The real grain bin rescues are long, better measured in hours. They can be in unideal conditions, like bitterly cold or extremely hot.

Through practical scenarios and life-like emergencies, these extreme rescue training courses are the best preparation for real life. In true emergencies, one does not rise to the occasion but sinks to the level of their training. A physician taking extreme courses and putting themselves in extreme situations will inspire exceptional communication, teamwork and leadership skills.

Extreme wilderness environments mean no resources, no cell phones, no right answers and no simple solutions. The best resource you have is the people you’re with and that could just mean yourself. An urban setting, too, can quickly be transformed into a “wilderness setting” with a disaster.

This is why I repeatedly seek out experiences to expand my comfort zone and expand my understanding of others.

April Oertle is an M2 at UICOMR.