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.

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: 10/2022

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 or outdoor spaces
  • Avoid contact with people suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19
  • 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:

  • For courses starting before December 26, 2022:
    • All students are required to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and encouraged to be up-to-date with any boosters you are eligible to receive.
    • Fully vaccinated means it has been two weeks since your final dose of a vaccine (two weeks from the second dose of a two dose vaccine or two weeks from a single dose vaccine). Any COVID-19 vaccine approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) is acceptable.
    • Exemptions for medical reasons or religious beliefs may be requested. Students with an exemption must provide a negative PCR test for COVID-19 taken no more than 5 days before the course start date, and take an antigen test at the start of their course. If the test is positive they will not be allowed to go on their course
  • For courses starting after December 26, 2022:
    • 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:

  • Physical distancing: Increasing space and distance from others is encouraged. 
  • Face masks: KN95 or KF94 masks will be used indoors and in vehicles in most situations. NOLS can supply KN95 or KF94 face masks. Face masks 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 will have two people per shelter since masks are not worn when sleeping. Shelters will be ventilated as practical. 
  • Monitoring for symptoms: All course members will be monitored for symptoms of COVID-19. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 will be isolated and we will follow CDC guidance for isolation and quarantine. 
  • After 10 days the likelihood of anyone transmitting COVID-19 is low. 

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 Wilderness Medicine COVID-19 Disclosure Document.

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. 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?

    All students are encouraged to be fully vaccinated and up-to-date with all boosters they are eligible for.

    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 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. 
     
    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?

    All students and staff are encouraged to be fully vaccinated and up-to-date with any boosters they are eligible to get.

    To help limit exposure and viral spread, students are expected to follow pre-course instructions to minimize exposure prior to arriving at NOLS and adhere to our field practices described above. Students will also be monitored for symptoms of COVID-19.

  • 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. We will seek a COVID-19 test. Anyone who is positive for COVID-19 cannot join their course.
     
    Students who become ill on a course will follow isolation guidance from the CDC or relevant local agency, we will seek medical advice from our support teams, and take appropriate action which may include evacuation from the field.

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 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 be vaccinated and/or get a COVID-19 test prior to my course?
    • All Wilderness Medicine students on courses beginning prior to December 26, 2022 are required to be fully vaccinated prior to their course start date.
    • After December 26, 2022, students on WEMT courses will still be required to be fully vaccinated prior to their course start date.
    • After December 26, 2022, students on WEMT courses will be required to submit a negative COVID-19 test taken within 3 days of the course start date.

    Please see our COVID-19 Disclosure for full details

  • 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) 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.

  • 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.