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PRHC702 Wilderness and Expedition Medicine

Overview of planning and preparation for activities including expeditions in wilderness environments. This includes medical problems associated with these environments and providing medical care in the outdoors.

The Wilderness and Expedition Medicine paper is designed to provide participants with skills in planning and preparation for activities in the wilderness environment, both within New Zealand and overseas. It will address medical problems associated with the wilderness environment and expeditions. The special considerations of providing medical care in an outdoor environment, including risk assessment and resource management will be covered. Specific topics include the environment and its impact on human physiology (extremes of heat, cold, altitude, water/underwater and subterranean environments), wilderness activities and associated injuries, medical care in the wilderness, plant- and animal-related injuries and expedition medicine. The paper is suitable for any health professional whose leisure activities or work takes them into the outdoors, including expedition medics. It is also relevant to those who advise persons on wilderness activities and/or provide pre-expedition health advice.

Paper title Wilderness and Expedition Medicine
Paper code PRHC702
Subject Primary Health Care
EFTS 0.25
Points 30 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023 (Distance learning)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,018.75
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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Limited to
PGCertTravMed, PGDipGP, PGDipPHC, PGDipRPHP, PGDipTravMed, MHealSc, PGDipHealSc
Includes residential period/s.

Suitable for health professionals from a range of disciplines.

Enrolments for this paper are limited, and it requires departmental permission. View more information about limitations of enrolment.


Teaching staff
Convenor: Dr Jenny Visser
Paper Structure

Elective paper for: Postgraduate Diploma in Travel Medicine (PGDipTravMed) and the Postgraduate Diploma in Primary Health Care (PGDipPHC)

Material is presented in self-directed learning modules covering the following topics:

  • Extremes of heat and cold
  • The high-altitude environment
  • The water, underwater and subterranean environments
  • Wilderness injuries and trauma
  • Wilderness medical care and emergencies
  • Special populations in the wilderness
  • Plant- and animal-related injuries
  • Expedition medicine
Teaching Arrangements

One 4-day compulsory in-person residential at Hillary Outdoors Tongariro. This is held over Labour weekend.

Other teaching, including regular evening sessions delivered via Blackboard and online via Zoom.

Study Skills, technology support and resources are provided to students via a custom built site accessed through Blackboard.

There is no required textbook for this paper. All resources available either via Blackboard or other online resources.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Communication, Critical thinking, Information literacy, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.

Please also refer to the Department of Primary Health Care & General Practice Graduate Profile.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the paper should have an understanding of and gain practical experience in:

  • The principles of wilderness medicine, what makes it unique and what the subject encompasses. Including triaging casualties and resource management in wilderness and remote environments
  • Working in inter-professional teams in a wilderness setting

Students should gain an understanding of:

  • The epidemiology of wilderness injury and illness
  • The principles of personal safety, patient assessment, immobilisation, stabilisation and preparation for evacuation in an outdoor environment
  • The physiological impact that heat and cold has on the human body and the common illnesses and injuries associated with this
  • The physiological impact that high altitude has on the human body and the prevention and treatment of altitude-related illness and injury
  • The physiological impact that the water/underwater environment has on the human body and the common illnesses and injuries associated with this
  • The risks, prevention and management of wilderness poisonings, envenomation and wild animal attacks
  • The challenges of being the expedition medic

Students should be able to advise:

  • On the prevention and management of wilderness water-borne illness and water disinfection options
  • On prevention and treatment of wilderness arthropod- and tick-borne diseases
  • High-risk travellers (including children, pregnant women and the elderly) on wilderness activities
  • Potential expedition members on all aspects of health risks, their prevention and management

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Not offered in 2023

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system