Resources

Know Before You Go


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

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 Notices webpage.
 

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.

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
     

 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.

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 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:

  • Digital oral thermometer
  • 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)
  • Individual sleeping arrangements
  • Hand washing stations in camp

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. 

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 classroom time, scenarios, and when physical distancing is not possible outside
  • 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 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

  • What’s new in course enrollment paperwork and process?
    • Self-reporting health form
    • Updated Student Agreement
    • COVID-19 Disclosure
    • Orientation Webinar and Q&A
  • For upcoming Expedition courses, what cancellation policies are in place?

    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. 

    For enrolled students:

    • If you need to cancel due to direct impacts of COVID-19 between your tuition deadline date and prior to the start date of your course, you will receive a 75% non-refundable tuition credit.  Direct impacts of COVID-19 may include: you or an immediate family member becoming infected with COVID-19, you having a high risk exposure to 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. 
    • For students who arrive for their course and decide not to participate on their own due to COVID-19 reasons OR arrive with COVID-19 symptoms and are unable to join the course, they will receive a non-refundable 50% tuition credit.*
    • 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 reasons, 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.

    All enrolled students also have the option to 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.

  • How did NOLS select which courses to run?

    For summer 2020, field courses include backpacking and horsepacking only, and will operate solely from locations in Lander, Wyoming and NOLS-owned Three Peaks Ranch. Lander-based courses will not visit the Noble Hotel or the Rocky Mountain campus, but will instead be staged and outfitted at locations out of town to provide separation from the local population. Reduced course sizes, smaller instructor-student ratios, and numerous changes to logistical, operational and staging practices will be put in place to optimize COVID-19 risk mitigation.

    With these learnings, Fall and Spring courses have followed similar guidelines. The Restart Task Force is reviewing opportunities for the summer 2021 season and the school will introduce new locations and skills if national, regional and local health and travel protocols permit.

  • 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 participate in daily health checks including taking a temperature. 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.

  • Why are you not using testing as part of the screening process?

    There are different types of tests available for COVID-19. All have limited utility for screening in the NOLS context. Testing may have a place in our COVID-19 practices at some point, but not at this time.

    A viral or antigen test (PCR test) determines if someone has the virus at the time of the test. These tests are used for diagnostic purposes. 

    Testing in Lander still requires a doctor’s order and there has to be suspicion that the patient needs to be tested; we don’t have the ability to test anyone and everyone. The viral (PCR) tests that are available require at least 48 hours for results. We could require course participants to have a PCR test before they arrive in Lander, but this does not rule out infection during travel. In addition, all PCR tests have some level of inaccuracy; delivering false positive or false negatives. 

    An antibody test determines if someone had the virus in the past. The presence of antibodies is not well understood by the medical community and does not necessarily mean the person has immunity to COVID-19. There are many of these types of tests, and many have been found to be inaccurate, giving false negative and false positive results, some by as much as 50%. 

    There is not yet a test available that we can use in the field or administer every day on a Wilderness Medicine course. Pre-course testing will not change our field or classroom practices.

  • 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

  • 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?

    No testing is required prior to participation in a NOLS Wilderness Medicine course.

  • 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 COVID-19 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 student tests positive for COVID-19 during my course?

    If a student tests positive for COVID-19 during your course, NOLS will work directly with the public health authority to assure all participants receive appropriate guidance and medical advice. NOLS will cancel the remainder of the course and work with students to either prorate a tuition refund or to assist them in finishing their course at a later time. NOLS is not responsible for expenses related to a positive diagnosis on a course.

  • 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.