To FAWM or not to FAWM?

Updated 2013-03-15 to include more information about the FAWM and the Academy of Wilderness Medicine.

I’ve been thinking about working towards becoming a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine™ (FAWM) for awhile now. I’ve been a member of the Wilderness Medical Society for a number of years, and lately I’ve been thinking about the FAWM a lot.

A good description of A Fellowship in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM) is described over at Expedition Medicine, here:

The Fellowship in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine is designed for individuals who want to be acknowledged for their professional achievement in Wilderness Medicine, and wish to validate their training for their patients and clients.

Society members enroll in the Academy and, by completing Expedition and Wilderness Medicine courses, receive credit for specific, identifiable experience, accumulating credit toward becoming a Fellow. Any current member of the Wilderness Medical Society who successfully completes the requirements will have the distinction of being a registered member of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine and entitled to use the designation Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM) and may reference it on resumes, business cards, and advertisements.

The Academy maintains a demanding set of requirements that validates each member’s qualifications in wilderness medicine. Candidates for the Academy participate in Expedition and Wilderness Medicine Courses and receive credit for the topics covered. When candidates fulfill the requirements of the Core Curriculum and demonstrate other required experience in Wilderness Medicine, they qualify to be reviewed to become members of the Academy with the designation “Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine.”

The FAWM designation is similar to others in the medical field, such as a Fellowship in the American College of Emergency Physicians (“FACEP”). One thing that makes FAWM unique is that it’s open to nurses, paramedics, and “other qualified medical professionals.” There is a core curriculum that must be met, along with electives, as well as actual experience that must be investigated and qualified. They even have a PDF brochure you can download.

Did you know the American College of Emergency Physicians has a Wilderness Medical section? They do.

To save you some time, I’ll included a quick blurb on the Academy:

Academy of Wilderness Medicine

The academy seeks to provide a system of adult education and certification in a modern and standardised way to provide a set level of knowledge and education for practitioners working in the wilderness arena.

    The goals of the academy are to:

  • Professional designation for achievement in Wilderness Medicine
  • Validation for the public, patients, and clients of practitioner education in Wilderness Medicine
  • Recognition for completing high quality standards in Wilderness Medicine
  • Continuing medical education (CME) credit for acquisition of knowledge and hands-on experiences in Wilderness Medicine
  • The advancement of an internationally recognized curriculum of Wilderness Medicine categories, topics, and skills

The problem is, a good chunk of the required and elective learning I’ve already accomplished, but it isn’t recognized since I haven’t purchased a Fellowship Candidacy yet. I would have to either purchase lectures, attend other conferences, and pay to sit in on “workshops” that I could probably teach. Some of them I already teach, in fact. I can also submit copies of certificates I’ve already been awarded (for a nominal processing fee) and hope they count.

Or, I could just head out to NOLS for a few weeks and have some fun while getting about 80 hours worth of credits fulfilled..

The upside is I’d have five years to complete the candidacy, and it’s only $225. Lectures can be purchased pretty cheaply, but conferences can be over $1500 plus travel and lodging. If I’m awarded a Fellowship, it’s good for as long as I maintain my WMS membership (something I have no intention of letting expire.) I’ve heard it’s a great thing to have if you are on the speaking circuit, which I hope to be in a few years.

So, with all of that said and done, I’m looking for comments from my readership. For those of you that have it, is it worth it (aside from personal satisfaction)? Does it add anything to employment opportunities? I’m not looking to accumulate an alphabet soup of credentials for the sake of looking important. I’m looking for proof of half a lifetime of education and experience that actually means something to someone other than myself.

So, I’m reaching out to my peers for their thoughts on this. I’d appreciate your comments.

  • Epijunky

    I know very little about Wilderness medicine. What I have learned I’ve gleaned from links you’ve provided. Thank you, btw :) That being said, I’m all about furthering ones education. To me, (and as I said, I’m not the person to ask. Hell, I’m just a medic!) it sounds like it could be a positive opportunity for you. This is right up your alley. I don’t live in an area where this would be something that could make or break a job offer for you as far as getting a road position, but it would never hurt you as far as speaking engagements. Just my very humble opinion :)

    • DiverMedic

      Thank you, Epi. And you’re way more than “just a medic.”

  • Ckemtp

    I’m with Epi on this one. I really don’t know as much about it as I could. As such, I kicked it over to a friend of mine who’s a medic that also runs the “School of Wilderness Medicine and Survival.” He says that he’s actually spending the week in Colorado this week fetting some FAWM credits. I have a feeling he’ll be over to respond here as well

    • SurvivorMedic

      I finally got around to posting. Now you’ve forced me to get a Disqus account. What’s next?

      • Ckemtp

        Well obviously you’ve got to get a picture for your comment profile. Good name though.

  • SurvivorMedic

    I’m about half way done with the process, so maybe I can shed a little light on it. I don’t know for certain if it will provide me with any benefit as far as employment, but I figure it can’t hurt. My main reason for doing it, other than that I am always looking to learn something new, is that I teach wilderness medicine and becoming a FAWM will add credibility to what I do. As you pointed out, it does help getting speaking engagements as well. More than anything, though, I think that earning the FAWM designation lets people know that you are serious about the discipline of wilderness medical care.

    You can get quite a few core and elective credits on the website by looking at journal articles, but you’re going to have to attend a course or two if you want to finish the process. I recently went out to Colorado to take a WALS course (about $1600 with all expenses factored in) and got about 30 core credits out of the deal.

  • Debiegun

    I’m 80 something hours into my FAWM. I’m also a Wilderness Section of ACEP member, WMS lifetime member, have been on SAR teams, am a ski patrol medical director, and teach AWLS as well as countless other wilderness courses. I agree with SurvivorMedic.
    1) This will not get you jobs, only your CV of experience and your other job findings skills can do that.

    2) It does give you legitimizing credentials to help convince others you are serious. This is nice when you are lecturing, teaching, going to conferences to show your dedication & years of involvement.
    3) If you’ve really been so active you can get many hours of credit for life experience and things you’re already doing.

    4) You may have to attend one or two conferences on top of that to pick up a good handful of credits.
    5) You can usually pick up the last few credits by reading WEM articles and doing the associated CME tests.
    I think it’s worthwhile, or I wouldn’t be doing it. But much like FACEP it’s not that big a deal, more just a check box you do to show others how active you have been.

  • Timothy

    Actually, if you were already teaching or publishing in wilderness medicine, you could get a significant credit from “experience” sector.

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