Resources

Know Before You Go


Students sit under a canopy with all of their bags unpacked as they listen to an instructor.
 

For All Courses

Our commitment to risk management practices guides our operations; and the health and wellbeing of our students, faculty, and staff is our priority.

NOLS has a long history of operating in environments with risks. These risks are essential to achieving our educational objectives. However, NOLS also practices thoughtful and effective risk management. Contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, is a new risk for everyone and (like other risks) cannot be eliminated.

Potential Course Risks:

  • At times, students will be in close physical proximity to one another and/or instructors.

  • There is potential of illnesses on course.  Communicable and other infectious diseases from insects, animals, or people such as diarrhea, flu-like or respiratory illness, and other debilitating or life-threatening conditions including COVID-19 and other diseases caused by coronaviruses may occur.

  • The remote locations of our expedition courses are often away from medical facilities. Communication and transportation can be difficult and evacuations and medical care may be significantly delayed.

  • The physical contact required in our wilderness medicine courses is an inherent part of learning first aid.

  • Decisions made by the instructors, other staff (including volunteers), contractors, and students will be based on a variety of perceptions and evaluations, which by their nature are imprecise and subject to errors in judgment.
     

Resources for Our Protocols

  • Federal, state, and local public health experts
  • Peer organizations
  • Medical advisors
  • Local governmental agencies

To learn more about our process, view the Travel and Program Notices page.
 

Conditional Course Operations
This is an evolving situation and our practices may change as we gain new information or as recommendations change. NOLS will decide when and under what conditions any courses will operate using medical advice and our best judgment, and activities or locations of courses may be changed, potentially at the last minute.
 

For Expeditions

COVID-19 Cancellation Policies

  • If you need to cancel due to direct impacts of COVID-19 within 75 days of your course start date, you can receive a 100% tuition credit for a future course or a 75% refund, up to the start date of the course. Direct impacts of COVID-19 may include: you or an immediate family member becoming infected with COVID-19, you have been identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 infected individual, or travel restrictions such as stay-in-place orders where you live or border closures prohibiting you from getting to your NOLS campus. NOLS consistently reviews our policies in light of the changing pandemic and reserves the right to update this policy at any time.
  • For students separated from a course due to COVID-19 illness, they will receive a non-refundable 50% tuition credit.*
    If you need to cancel your enrollment for any other reason, standard NOLS cancellation policies apply. 
  • If NOLS suspends a course in the field due to COVID-19 developments (ie. travel restrictions, local stay-in-place orders, etc.), the school will provide a prorated tuition credit.
  • If NOLS cancels your upcoming course due to COVID-19 related impacts or restrictions, we will provide 100% transfer, credit or refund (excluding $65 application fee or any personal travel expenses or reservations). The school will also refund any transactional fees incurred for academic credit or financial aid. 
  • NOLS recommends that all enrolled students purchase tuition protection and travel insurance to protect their investment and guard against unforeseen circumstances. NOLS will not reimburse travel or other related third-party costs due to any COVID-19 cancellations.

Please contact your Admissions Officer with any questions.

*Tuition credit valid one year from issue date. Subject to change. Policy updated: 12/17/20

Preparing for Your Course


A student wearing a backpacking pack and face mask bends down to dispense some hand sanitizer before getting on a school bus.

NOLS may require students to exercise certain precautions prior to arriving at their course, including some of the following steps.
 
Take steps to limit your exposure to coronavirus for 14 days prior to your course:

  • Physical distancing
  • Frequent hand washing
  • Monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms
  • Expedition courses - Starting May 30, 2021 students must bring one of the following to the start of their course:
    • Negative PCR test for COVID-19 taken no more than 5 days before the course start date
    • Proof of completed regimen for a COVID-19 vaccine that is authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or World Health Organization WHO). For example, two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) or two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson)
  • Wilderness Medicine courses- As of November 2021, all Wilderness Medicine students must be fully vaccinated on the following timetable:
    • Students on courses beginning November 1 - November 11, 2021 must have recieved the final vaccine dose prior to arrival at their course.
    • Students on courses beginning on or after November 12, 2021 need to be two weeks or more past recieving the final vaccine does prior to arrival at their course.

 Traveling to your course:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Keep six feet of distance from others
  • Wear a mask when in public
  • Carry and use sanitizing wipes to clean surfaces you come in contact with
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Avoid dine-in restaurants
     

Important Considerations
Do not travel to your NOLS course if you have COVID-19 symptoms (cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell), have in the past 14 days been in close contact with someone suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19, or if you are confirmed or suspected as having COVID-19 in the past 14 days. 

For those who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), please carefully consider, in conjunction with your healthcare provider, whether to attend NOLS at this time. 
 
NOLS has a flexible refund policy and can work with you in order to fulfill these considerations. Contact your admissions officer to learn more.

As you make travel plans, please inform yourself and plan for any requirements on your itinerary that may apply (for example, additional COVID-19 testing).

During Your Course


A group of megamid tents raised up extra high to provide extra ventilation.

You’ve arrived! In consultation with health authority recommendations, we have introduced enhanced wellness practices and hygiene protocols to minimize the spread and exposure to COVID-19.
 

For All Courses

Daily Health Checks
Upon arrival and daily on your course, we will conduct a health check that will include asking questions about how you are feeling, recent contact with anyone who is known or suspected to have COVID-19, and, depending on course type, taking your temperature. If anyone begins showing symptoms of COVID-19, we will separate that individual from the group and seek medical advice.
 

For Expedition Courses

Important Items on the Equipment List:

  • Washable face coverings
     

Best In-Field Practices

 

 

 

 

 

  • Physical distancing (six feet or two meters) at all times when possible 
  • Masks for when physical distancing is not possible (reusable and washable masks will be provided)
  • Distanced sleeping arrangements
  • Frequent hand washing

For these measures to be effective, we need commitment and diligence from our students and staff. Students who, in our judgement, do not comply with these expectations may be expelled from the course.
 

Unexpected Symptoms or Illness on an Expedition
If a student develops symptoms of COVID-19, they will be isolated from the group. Staff will seek medical advice and follow our COVID-19 illness guidelines, which may include evacuation from the course. If a student is evacuated, it is unlikely they will be able to rejoin their course due to remoteness and logistics, though this may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

We have very limited ability to accommodate evacuees at our campuses. They will need to stay in local lodging at their expense until they are able or allowed, per medical advice, to return home. They will also need to make their own travel arrangements to return home. NOLS may be able to provide some assistance in finding lodging or arranging travel.
 

For Wilderness Medicine Courses

Important Items on the Equipment List:

  • Masks (2), either cloth or medical
  • Eye protection, sunglasses or safety glasses
     

Best In-Classroom Practices

 

 

 

 

 

  • Enhanced hand hygiene and classroom hygiene
  • Physical distancing (six feet or two meters) when possible
  • Masks for all educational activities and breaks
  • Gloves and eye protection during physical contact

For these measures to be effective, we need commitment and diligence from our students and staff. Students who, in our judgement, do not comply with these expectations may be expelled from the course.
 

Unexpected Symptoms or Illness on a Classroom Program
If a student becomes ill during their course or is asked by the instructor not to attend class based on screening, they should stay home and seek medical advice. Based on the medical advice they receive they may or may not be able to continue with their course. NOLS will evaluate each situation and work with the student and the course sponsor to either prorate a tuition refund or to assist them in finishing their course at a later time.

For more information, see our Wilderness Medicine COVID-19 Disclosure Document.

For Risk Services Classroom Courses

Prior to the course, students will receive information about the nature of the educational experience and the risks involved. Additionally, participants will be asked to:

  • Bring at least one mask with them to the course.
  • Be diligent with hygiene and practice physical distancing while traveling to the course.
  • Monitor their health before the course and not attend if they have signs of illness.

Further details can be found in the Risk Services Classroom Practices for COVID-19

Expedition FAQ and Policies

  • COVID-19 cancellation policies for Expeditions
    • If you need to cancel due to direct impacts of COVID-19 within 75 days of your course start date, you can receive a 100% tuition credit for a future course or a 75% refund, up to the start date of the course. Direct impacts of COVID-19 may include: you or an immediate family member becoming infected with COVID-19, you have been identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 infected individual, or travel restrictions such as stay-in-place orders where you live or border closures prohibiting you from getting to your NOLS campus. NOLS consistently reviews our policies in light of the changing pandemic and reserves the right to update this policy at any time.
    • For students separated from a course due to COVID-19 illness, they will receive a non-refundable 50% tuition credit.*
    • If you need to cancel your enrollment for any other reason, standard NOLS cancellation policies apply. 
    • If NOLS suspends a course in the field due to COVID-19 developments (ie. travel restrictions, local stay-in-place orders, etc.), the school will provide a prorated tuition credit.
    • If NOLS cancels your upcoming course due to COVID-19 related impacts or restrictions, we will provide 100% transfer, credit or refund (excluding $65 application fee or any personal travel expenses or reservations). The school will also refund any transactional fees incurred for academic credit or financial aid. 
    • NOLS recommends that all enrolled students purchase tuition protection and travel insurance to protect their investment and guard against unforeseen circumstances. NOLS will not reimburse travel or other related third-party costs due to any COVID-19 cancellations.

    Please contact your Admissions Officer with any questions.

    *Tuition credit valid one year from issue date. Subject to change.
    Policy updated: 12/17/20

  • If I'm placed on a waitlist, what are my chances of getting on an Expedition?

    While we want to accept everyone on our courses, NOLS' commitment to excellent student-to-instructor ratios, permitting limits for the sensitive areas where we operate, and other operating restrictions mean we cannot always accommodate every person on their desired course.

    If you are interested in joining up to two additional waitlists (for being on a total of three waitlists), please reach out to your Admissions Officer. Their contact information is available on your NOLS Dashboard.

    It's important to know that NOLS waitlists are not necessarily first come, first served. We will prioritize placing waitlisted individuals on a course based on their activity during the admissions process (for example, completing required forms), and considerations for best rounding out a course roster. This can be completed by following the steps on your Dashboard and communicating with your Admissions Officer.

  • Why does NOLS not take temperatures as a part of daily health checks for Expeditions?

    Although initially daily health checks included taking temperatures in addition to monitoring for typical symptoms of COVID-19, over time we found that temperature readings varied widely or sometimes gave false readings. Because of this, under the advice of our medical director, we updated our protocols to remove taking temperatures while continuing to screen for symptoms in daily health checks.

  • Why is COVID-19 testing a part of the Expeditions enrollment process?

    The original mitigation plan for NOLS Expeditions, which did not include testing, was developed when testing availability was limited and its efficacy as a mitigation measure was questionable. Since then, the availability of testing has increased and we have a better understanding of and experience with the role testing can play in our mitigation plans. Testing has also increasingly become an expectation in U.S. educational settings and other sectors.

    The additions of (1) required pre-course testing to identify an asymptomatic or presymptomatic person before they become part of a course cohort, and (2) targeted testing after arrival at NOLS, represent a critical expansion of our testing program to address evolving conditions.

    Please note that the addition of testing does not change our campus and field COVID-19 practices: Physical distancing, wearing a mask, and impeccable hygiene are still necessary. 

  • Will my NOLS course be safe from coronavirus?

    Contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, is a new risk for everyone and (like other risks) cannot be eliminated. The updates to how NOLS operates a course have been developed and implemented to minimize exposure to COVID-19 and to detect signs of illness. We are supporting our students if you decide to postpone your course to a future season. 

    For those who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), please carefully consider, in conjunction with your health care provider, whether to attend NOLS at this time. 
     
    NOLS has a flexible refund policy at this time and can work with you to fulfill the considerations listed above. Contact your Admissions Officer or Trip Advisor to learn more.

  • What precautions are you taking to help people arrive healthy and stay healthy?

    We are requesting that staff and students take steps to minimize exposure to COVID-19 prior to traveling to their NOLS field experience. All students will be requested to travel utilizing CDC guidelines for safe travel. Upon arrival and during the course, students will be monitored for signs and symptoms of flu-like illness.

  • What happens if I get COVID-19 before the course?

    Do not travel to your NOLS course if you have COVID-19 symptoms (cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell), have in the past 14 days been in close contact with someone suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19, or you are confirmed or suspected as having COVID-19 in the past 14 days. 
     
    NOLS has a flexible tuition credit, course transfer, and refund policy at this time and can work with you in order to fulfill the considerations listed above. Contact your Admissions Officer or Trip Advisor to learn more.

  • How will NOLS limit COVID-19 exposure on course?

    Contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, is a new risk for everyone and cannot be eliminated. 

    To help limit exposure and spread, students will be required to follow newly developed pre-course instructions and specific arrival precautions. Students will also participate in daily health checks. View COVID-19 Practices Video

    In the case an individual shows symptoms of COVID-19, they will be separated from the group and we will seek medical advice.

  • What happens if a student arrives ill or becomes ill on a course?

    Students who arrive displaying or reporting flu-like symptoms will not be allowed to embark on the course.  Students who become ill on a course will be isolated from the larger group and the course will establish communication with outside medical advisors to determine next steps. Appropriate measures will be taken based on the circumstances and location of the course.

  • What’s new in course enrollment paperwork and process?
    • Self-reporting health form
    • Updated Student Agreement
    • COVID-19 Disclosure
    • Orientation Webinar and Q&A
  • How can I access financial aid for my course?

    Students can utilize 529 College Savings Plan funds, AmeriCorps Education Awards, and VA benefits for their NOLS course this summer. Timing is of the essence! These forms of payment are multi-tiered and take time to organize, so reach out to your Admission Officer right away to get moving on next steps. 
     
    NOLS has limioted scholarship funding available upcoming courses. For more information, visit the Scholarship section.

  • Can I earn academic credit for my course?

    Yes! Please register for credit with the University of Utah no later than five days prior to your course start date.

Wilderness Medicine FAQ

  • How will NOLS help people whose wilderness medicine certifications were impacted by the pandemic?

    If your certification expired/expires between 3/13/2019 and 8/31/2021 we are automatically adding 12 months to your certification length.

    Your twelve-month re-entry period begins at the end of your new expiration date. This extension applies to all NOLS Wilderness Medicine certifications including wilderness medicine, CPR, and epinephrine auto-injector. If your  certification was issued by another training provider, please contact them  directly. It is our understanding that other programs are developing plans to support their graduates.

    It will take some time to make these changes in our data system, thank you for your patience. 

  • Will my NOLS course be safe from coronavirus?

    Contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), is a new risk for everyone and (like other risks) cannot be eliminated. The updates to how NOLS operates a course have been developed and implemented to reduce exposure to COVID-19 and to detect signs of illness as quickly as possible. For those who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), please carefully consider, in conjunction with your health care provider, whether to attend a NOLS Wilderness Medicine course at this time. 

  • Am I required to follow any specific practices?

    Yes, all students and instructors are expected to adhere to practices defined in the NOLS Wilderness Medicine COVID-19 Disclosure, Practices and Expectations for Students and refusal to comply is grounds for dismissal from a course with no tuition refund. These practices are designed to reduce the risk of illness for all participants and would be expected in any setting where you are providing healthcare or first aid.
     

  • What if I have a mask exemption card or letter?

    We recognize that wearing a face-covering or mask for extended periods of time is not feasible for everyone. However, mask usage is an integral part of our risk reduction strategy. If you are unable to tolerate wearing a mask for up to four hours at a time, you should delay your attendance until your condition changes or the requirement is removed.

  • Am I required to get a COVID-19 test prior to my course?

    To participate in a course > 3 days in length including Wilderness Advanced First Aid, Wilderness First Responder, Wilderness Upgrade for Medical Professionals, Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician, Wilderness Medicine Expedition, or Medicine in the Wild course, upon arrival you must provide verification of a negative COVID-19 test administered no more than 5 days prior to the course start date, or verification of full vaccination (see below for details). COVID-19 molecular or NAAT (includes PCR) tests are preferred, but COVID-19 Antigen tests are acceptable. The results of a COVID-19 antibody test are not acceptable. Students who arrive without proof of a negative test result (or verification of full vaccination) will not be allowed to participate in the course.

    Unless the course sponsor or an applicable government entity requires otherwise, if you have been fully vaccinated (two weeks after receiving the final dose of any COVID-19 vaccine authorized by the World Health Organization) and are asymptomatic, you may provide verification of your vaccination in lieu of a negative COVID-19 test result. If you do not wish to share your vaccination status, you may provide a negative COVID-19 test result instead (see above for details). Though it is strongly encouraged, NOLS does not require COVID-19 vaccination to participate in our programs.

    A negative COVID-19 test result is only required on courses greater than three days in length. It is not required for Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness First Responder Recertification/Hybrid Recertification, or Wilderness Medicine for the Professional Practitioner. 

  • Have you made any updates to the paperwork I need to be aware of?

    The NOLS Wilderness Medicine Student Agreement has been updated to include education about additional risks including:

    • At times students will be in close physical proximity to one another or instructors.
    • Illnesses may include…communicable and other infectious diseases from insects, animals, or people such as diarrhea, flu-like or respiratory illness, and other debilitating or life-threatening conditions including COVID-19 and other diseases caused by coronaviruses.

    The NOLS Wilderness Medicine On-Course Student Information Form/Policies & Procedures has been updated to include a new policy:

    • Participate fully in NOLS Wilderness Medicine’s strategies to decrease the risk of infectious disease spread in our classrooms.
  • What should I be aware of while traveling to my course?

    We request that you take steps to limit your exposure for 14 days prior to and while traveling to your course. This includes practicing physical (social) distancing, wearing a mask or face covering when in public or when physical distancing is not possible, frequent hand washing, and monitoring your health for symptoms of COVID-19.

  • What happens if I get COVID-19 before my course?

    Do not travel to your NOLS course if you have COVID-19 symptoms (cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell), have in the past 14 days been in close contact with someone suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19, or you are confirmed or suspected as having COVID-19 in the past 14 days. We will work with you to transfer your enrollment to a later course.

  • What happens if I get sick during my course?

    If you become ill during your course or your instructor asks you not to attend class based on screening, you should stay home and seek medical advice. Based on the medical advice you receive you may or may not be able to continue with your course. NOLS will evaluate each situation and work with you and the course sponsor to either prorate a tuition refund or to assist you in finishing your course at a later time.

  • What happens if a course member tests positive for COVID-19 during my course?

    If a student or instructor tests positive for COVID-19 during your course, that individual will be separated from the course and directed to seek medical advice and begin isolation. Though each situation will be evaluated independently, NOLS will endeavor to continue the course for the remainder of the students. Our medical advisors support this strategy based on the level of personal protective equipment used during our courses.


    If NOLS cancels the remainder of the course, we will work with students to prorate a tuition refund. If a student chooses to leave a course NOLS decides to continue, no tuition will be refunded. NOLS is not responsible for expenses related to a course impacted by a positive COVID-19 test.

  • Will NOLS cancel my course?

    NOLS reserves the right to cancel any course based on changing information or restrictions that affect our ability to operate at a given location. We will notify students as soon as possible if this occurs.

  • What if I have more questions?

    Please contact us at wilderness_medicine@nols.edu or 866-831-9001.