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, 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 for illness on a 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.

 

COVID-19 Course Operations

COVID-19 is an evolving situation and our practices change as we gain new information or as recommendations change. NOLS decides when and under what conditions our courses operate using health guidance from governmental agencies and our best judgment. Activities or locations of courses may be changed, potentially at the last minute.

Each country in which we operate may have their own entry and exit requirements or local guidance or regulations on COVID-19. NOLS will follow any local guidance or requirements that are more restrictive than ours. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization advise everyone to be up-to-date with their COVID vaccines, especially if traveling outside your home country.

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.

In an effort to minimize the possibility of someone having COVID-19 on a course students need to exercise certain precautions prior to arriving at their course, regardless of their vaccination status, including the following steps.

Take steps to limit your exposure to coronavirus for 10 days prior to and while traveling to your course:

  • Avoid crowded indoor spaces
  • Avoid contact with people suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 or flu
  • Increase space and distance from others 
  • Wear a high quality face mask (KN95, N95, or KF94) indoors when in public and on public transportation
  • Wash hands frequently
  • Monitor for COVID-19 symptoms

Expedition courses:

  • NOLS encourages  you to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and be up-to-date with any boosters you are eligible to receive. 

Wilderness Medicine courses:

  • NOLS encourages you to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and up-to-date with any boosters you are eligible to receive.
  • Wilderness EMT students are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and are strongly encouraged to be up-to-date with any boosters you are eligible to receive.

Important Considerations

Do not travel to your NOLS course if you are confirmed as having COVID-19 or have been a close contact of a COVID positive person in the 10 days prior to your course start date. We follow the CDC guidance for isolation and quarantine, which may affect your travel to NOLS. 

For those who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 as defined by the CDC, please carefully consider, in conjunction with your healthcare provider, whether to attend NOLS at this time.

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! COVID-19 and variants, are an evolving hazard and as we’ve said, the risk of contracting COVID-19, on NOLS field courses cannot be eliminated. We have identified mitigation strategies based on guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce that risk. Our field practices are subject to revision at any time as we respond to changes in the pandemic.

In Field Practices

For all field courses, regardless of vaccination status of course members, the following will apply during the first 10 days of the course:

  • Face masks: Face masks might be worn at our campuses and will be optional once courses go to the field. Multi-layered cloth masks are acceptable in the field. 
  • Hygiene: Hand hygiene, in particular, is an important mitigation measure to prevent flu-like illness that could be confused with COVID-19.
  • Sleeping shelters: In most cases we will use shelters at their normal capacity. Shelters will be ventilated as practical. 
  • Monitoring for symptoms:
    • All course members will be monitored for symptoms of COVID-19.
    • People with symptoms when they arrive may be asked to wear a mask indoors, and we will assess their condition. Anyone who is positive for COVID-19 cannot join their course. For semesters, people might be able to join after their isolation period, and they are feeling better.
    • Once in the field, anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 will be isolated and sleep in a separate shelter.
    • Evacuation decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.
    • We follow CDC guidance for COVID-19 illness management.

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

Unexpected Symptoms or Illness on an Expedition
If a course member develops symptoms of COVID-19, they will be isolated from the group and instructors will seek medical advice through our support teams and follow our COVID-19 illness guidelines that are based on CDC guidance. People with COVID-19 symptoms may be evacuated 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

In-Classroom Practices

Enhanced hand hygiene and classroom hygiene

  • Enhanced hand hygiene and classroom hygiene
  • Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during educational activities with physical contact

For these measures to be effective, we need commitment and diligence from our students and staff. Students who, in our judgment, 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. In alignment with our Cancellation Policy, we will not refund or transfer any students who are unable to attend a course within the cancellation deadline. We strongly recommend the purchase of trip insurance which includes coverage for COVID-19. While there is a range of available Tuition Protection and Travel Insurance providers, our preferred provider is Aon Affinity. Please read each policy carefully and discuss any questions with a policy specialist at the provider you select.

For more information, see our NOLS Wilderness Medicine Communicable Disease Mitigation Practices and Expectations for Students.

Expedition FAQ and Policies

  • Will my NOLS course be safe from coronavirus?

    Contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, is a 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. 

    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 and trip insurance is available. Contact your Admissions Officer to learn more.

  • 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 10 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 10 days. 

Wilderness Medicine FAQ

  • 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 Communicable Disease Mitigation 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.
     

  • Am I required to be vaccinated and/or get a COVID-19 test prior to my course?
    • NOLS encourages you to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and up-to-date with any boosters you are eligible to receive.
    • Based on requirements of our clinical partners, WEMT students will continue to need to be fully vaccinated at the start of their WEMT course.  In addition, we strongly recommend being up up-to-date with all eligible boosters.
  • 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) or you are confirmed or suspected as having COVID-19 in the past 10 days. In alignment with our Cancellation Policy, we will not refund or transfer any students who are unable to attend a course within the cancellation deadline. We strongly recommend the purchase of trip insurance which includes coverage for COVID-19. While there is a range of available Tuition Protection and Travel Insurance providers, our preferred provider is Aon Affinity. Please read each policy carefully and discuss any questions with a policy specialist at the provider you select.

  • 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. In alignment with our Cancellation Policy, we will not refund or transfer any students who are unable to attend a course within the cancellation deadline. We strongly recommend the purchase of trip insurance which includes coverage for COVID-19. While there is a range of available Tuition Protection and Travel Insurance providers, our preferred provider is Aon Affinity. Please read each policy carefully and discuss any questions with a policy specialist at the provider you select.

  • 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.

  • What if I have more questions?

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


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