Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Andorra.
Interest: hiking, backpacking, scrambling, climbing
I really disagree with there being no difference betweeen a 40-hour WFA and an 80-hour, unless the Red Cross teaches quite differently from the other outfits I've seen.
It seemed to me that a 40-hour WFA is simply city Standard First Aid skills applied to a semi-wilderness setting, and a 20-hour the same information but with less evaluation and less practice time. So if you just need the skills, and have SFA, a 20-hour will teach you how to do SFA on a daytrip, and a 40-hour will certify that you theoretically know how to do SFA on a daytrip. But again, a decent self-learner can apply their SFA from a book just fine.
It wasn't until the 80-hour WFA that I found there was actually any substantially additional skills/information so you come out knowing more in general, rather than just in application, which is similar to higher medical courses, except that the higher you go, the more ambulance/hospital procedures start to diverge from wilderness.
The 80-hours I've seen include a lot more detailed anatomy (or at least expects a higher understanding), and information about illnesses and medical conditions and how to diagnose what can be waited out vs. needs a rescue and whatnot. This is related to the length you are expecting to possibly treat people for, but actually teaches you how to assess and help things.
I found the 40-hour to be basically SFA - radio/send for help, and sit and wait for a helicopter, while doing whatever you'd do in the city while sitting and waiting for an ambulance, plus a bit of sheltering.