• Published: March 5, 2018

EMS and Swiftwater Rescue Training in Costa Rica with Aerie Backcountry Medicine

One of the best things about working in the rescue community is getting to work with wonderful people. WRI Instructor Mike Johnston just returned from teaching a swift water rescue class in Costa Rica on the Rio Sevegre as part of Aerie Backcountry Medicine’s Wilderness EMT semester program.  Mike has worked with Aerie since its inception in the early 90’s and he came back to Montana with a renewed appreciation for the incredible instruction and experience Aerie provides  students. Aerie’s approach emphasizes scenarios and hands on training, but their secret is their assortment of  friendly, passionate and knowledgeable instructors who all currently work in EMS as EMT’s, paramedics, nurses, nurse practitioners, PA’s or Physicians.



For example, a team of Aerie instructor preceptors led by Dr. Greg Moore coordinated a series of rural walk in clinics with two Costa Rican physicians. Aerie students from this semester’s Wilderness EMT Course conducted initial assessments with local patients while being supervised by one of Aerie’s volunteer EMS providers which included three physicians, two nurse practitioners, several nurses and paramedics along with some EMT instructors. Using translators when needed Aerie students assessed patients, took vitals and referred patients to the physicians.  During just a few days of clinics the Aerie team provided free health care and medication to hundreds of Costa Ricans in need. Aerie founder Dave McEvoy, a Missoula paramedic, has been coordinating these efforts for the past 14 years with Dr Greg Moore, Aeries Medical Director who is one of the U.S.’s leading authorities in Wilderness Medicine and a full time ER Doc in Dillon Montana.



The swift water rescue class took place on the beautiful Sevegre River near the Rafiki Lodge.  Conditions were optimal for a great class and the students took advantage of warm water temperatures to spend as much time in the river as possible.  Combining swift water rescue scenarios  with patient assessment and treatment on the river allows students to practice their EMS skills in a fun and challenging setting. With Greg, Lori Moore and Dave McEvoy as victims students were given immediate feedback during the debriefs that followed each scenario.


swiftwater rescue class in Costa Rica


Aerie continues to set the standard for quality and professionalism in training students in Wilderness Medicine. In this semester EMT Class Aerie students are now transitioning from the jungles of Costa Rica to winter survival and avalanche training in the mountains of Montana. The diversity of settings and training that supplements Aerie’s Wilderness EMT curriculum is unparalleled. Aerie provides students an incredible educational experience  with a unmatched community of instructors and EMS professionals while serving and contributing to communities at the same time.  WRI is inspired by Aerie’s work and excited to continue to collaborate on future trainings. Pure Vida!

“Whitewater Rescue Institute provided meaningful and professional water safety training for the fisheries professionals in Montana which will help us avoid and/or manage dangerous water conditions during fisheries work on the streams, rivers and lakes of Montana.”

Grant Grisak, Fisheries biologist, Electrofishing Safety Program Coordinator Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
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