Wilderness First Responder (WFR) is considered the gold standard in emergency medical certifications for anyone that works for an outdoor program or simply likes to recreate outside. However, every WFR certification needs to be renewed to ensure that your skills are fresh and up-to-date when you’re in the mountains.
In fact, you’ll need to take a Wilderness First Responder course or certification program every 2 to 3 years to keep your certification current. Otherwise, your hard-earned credential will expire and you’ll need to start from scratch.
With that in mind, figuring out how to recertify your wilderness medicine credentials isn’t easy. To help you out, we’ve created this ultimate guide to WFR recertification. Up next, we’ll do a deep dive into your wilderness first responder recertification course options so you can focus more time on enjoying the great outdoors.
Wilderness First Responder Recertification Options
Like most medical certifications and outdoor training programs, Wilderness First Responder certifications need to be renewed. You should expect to complete a recertification training course every 2 to 3 years (depending on your course provider) so that you can practice and review your rescue skills.
You have a number of different options for your WFR recertification course. So, here’s a detailed look at the different programs that WFR graduates can sign up for to keep their skills and certifications current:
Option 1: Full WFR Course
The first and most straightforward option for maintaining your wilderness medicine certificate is to take the entire WFR course again.
Doing so helps ensure that you get to practice all of the skills that you learned in your initial course. Re-taking the whole course also clues you in to the latest updates in wilderness medicine and medical care that might have occurred since your original course dates.
Furthermore, some organizations only let you recertify your WFR credential through a dedicated recertification if you do it with them. So, taking the whole class again means that you don’t have to check whether a certain recertification course is pre-approved with your original certifying school.
The downside to taking the whole wilderness first responder course again is that you need to commit to another 8 to 10 days of class where you need to be prepared for wet, muddy, cold,or hot environments. These programs are also expensive (usually $800 to $1500 per course), so you may not want to invest the money into taking a class again.
Option 2: In-Person WFR Recert Courses
If taking an entire wilderness first responder course again isn’t your jam, an in-person WFR recertification course might be the better choice.
Most wilderness first responder recertification course offerings are in-person. Students in these programs usually attend 24 hours of class split over 3 days.
Each course attempts to review and practice the most important rescue and medical skills that you learned during your initial program. During these classes, you’ll usually spend time in a classroom and in outdoor settings, regardless of weather conditions, so come prepared for wet and cold conditions. You will likely get to do a number of scenarios, too.
The only drawback to an in-person WFR recertification course is that you won’t get as much time to review important techniques as you would in a complete course. But, you’ll still get to practice key techniques, such as using an epinephrine auto injector, during the program. Plus, you’ll save time and money over doing a full course.
Option 3: Online WFR Recert Courses
Traditionally, your only option for recertifying your WFR was through a full WFR course or through an in-person recertification course. However, some schools now offer the opportunity to renew your WFR certification fully online.
The benefit of online programming is the flexibility that comes with remote learning. These online courses tend to be substantially cheaper, too.
Nevertheless, do note that many of the major wilderness medicine schools, like NOLS, SOLO, and WMA, do not allow you to recertify with a complete online course. The American Red Cross and the American Heart Association also don’t allow you to get a BLS adult and child CPR certification through a course that’s completely online.
Therefore, if you’re looking to recertify with a completely online course, please verify with your initial course provider to see if they will accept remote learning. Additionally, check with the outdoor program or organization that you work for to see if they accept online recertification. If they don’t, a complete in-person or hybrid class might be the better option.
Option 4: Hybrid WFR Recert Courses
As we’ve mentioned, many of the major schools like NOLS Wilderness Medicine and SOLO Schools don’t offer fully online recertification options for wilderness first responders. However, many now offer hybrid learning options.
Each course is different, but the idea is that you’ll complete an online review component at home sometime before your course dates. Then, you’ll attend your in-person course dates to verify your rescue and wilderness medicine knowledge. Afterward, graduates get the same certification as students in a fully in-person course, but with just a fraction of the in-person time.
These programs are great for people who don’t have the time to commit to a 3-day recertification course. Plus, hybrid options tend to be more affordable than fully in-person classes.
Wilderness First Responder Recertification Through WFA and WAFA
So far, we’ve talked a lot about how to recertify your credential through a dedicated recertification course. However, you have another option to maintain your card: a Wilderness Advanced First Aid or a Wilderness First Aid course.
In fact, most of the major wilderness medicine schools, like NOLS Wilderness Medicine and WMA, allow wilderness first responders to recertify through a WFA or WAFA course.
These programs are usually 2 to 4 days long, so you don’t save much time or money by doing a WAFA course over a dedicated recert class. However, WFA and WAFA classes tend to be held more often. So, you’re more likely to find course dates that suit your needs through this method.
But check with your initial certifying school to ensure that you can renew your credential using this method before signing up.
Wilderness First Responder Recertification Through WEMT
The final method for retaining your Wilderness First Responder credential is to take a Wilderness EMT (WEMT) course. Doing so actually gets you a higher-level certification that you can use to work in urban healthcare settings or in search and rescue.
Of course, a Wilderness EMT (WEMT) certification is usually a month-long course with a substantial cost. So, signing up for a class isn’t something you should do on a whim.
Plus, maintaining a WEMT certification involves collecting many EMT continuing education hours each year. Therefore, students should only consider this option if they’re interested in becoming a WEMT. But if you’re looking to work in medicine, a WEMT certification can be a great launching point for your career.
Also note that a WEMT course is usually a 2 week Wilderness First Responder program, plus a 2 week urban EMT class. Some organizations, like SOLO, let students take just the urban EMT class within one year of gaining your wilderness first responder certification. Graduates of this so-called WEMT Part II class become a full Wilderness EMT.
Wilderness Medicine & WFR Recertification FAQs
Here are our answers to some of your most commonly asked questions about WFR recertification:
Most WFR recert courses last 24 hours. The certification you get from a recert course lasts for 2 to 3 years, depending on your course provider. Please contact your chosen wilderness medicine school for additional details about their specific course offerings.
Wilderness First Responder does expire. Generally, WFR certification lasts for 2 to 3 years, though this varies from provider to provider. Please review your certification card for the specific expiration date of your credential.
A WFR course usually lasts at least 70 hours. The certification usually lasts 2 to 3 years, though this can vary. Some wilderness medicine schools also have a one year grace period on their certifications.
Wilderness First Aid (WFA) is a 2-day entry-level wilderness medicine course for hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Wilderness First Responder (WFR) is an 8 to 10 day long training program that gives you a more in-depth look at important wilderness medicine skills.
Most WFR courses, including those from NOLS Wilderness Medicine, include adult and child CPR. However, some course providers require that you already have a CPR certification before joining your course. Please check with your program host and review their pre-class materials to find out if CPR is included in your training.
Some, but not all, schools offer a one year grace period after your certification card expires. Note that your credential is not valid during this one year period. Rather, this grace period allows you to recertify your credential through a Wilderness First Responder recertification course, rather than having to complete the whole training again.
Wilderness First Responder Recertification: Final Thoughts
Recerting your Wilderness First Responder card shouldn’t be an impossible task. Whether you’re looking for an in-person or hybrid class, there are plenty of options out there to help you keep your credential current and up-to-date.
Before you sign up for a course, be sure to consider the pros and cons of each recert option. While there’s an additional cost and time commitment to taking the whole course again, doing so can help you become more comfortable with providing first aid in the backcountry. Meanwhile, dedicated recert classes are often shorter and more affordable.
Regardless of which option you choose, we hope this article helped you understand what classes you can take to maintain your wilderness first responder credential. See you on the trail!