An analysis of the medical review process at the National Outdoor Leadership School

Document Type


Journal/Book Title

Wilderness and Environmental Medicine

Publication Date




First Page


Last Page



A statistical analysis of the medical characteristics of students on field courses at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) was performed. This analysis determined that the group of students with the highest overall student scores (≥4 on a 1 through 5 scale) tended to score lower in the psychological counseling and current psychological treatment questions and scored significantly higher in the athletic ability question on the NOLS medical review form. This indicates that these individuals tended to have little or no history of counseling and psychological treatment and were more likely to be engaged in competitive sports. Discriminant analysis demonstrated that these variables also contributed the most to discerning mathematically among the four possible student outcome score groups, which ranged from the inability to complete a course (evacuation) through highly successful. Many of the questions on the current NOLS medical form could not be analyzed statistically because they demonstrated no variance among the groups. Although these questions may still be valuable for screening purposes, some of them could be reworded for increased sensitivity. Discriminant analysis of six responses on the medical form was 43.7% effective at classifying individuals to outcome groups, and it is likely that this could be more effective with some modifications to the evaluation process. Admissions personnel in outdoor programs are encouraged to include questions such as those mentioned above in their overall admission procedures and to examine them thoroughly in their admissions decisions. Although additional studies should be conducted to examine these issues more thoroughly, it is possible that programmatic changes would assist students without the above-mentioned characteristics in becoming more successful in field courses.

This document is currently not available here.