A Review of OnPoint Tactical’s Off-Grid Medicine Course, by JR

OnPoint Tactical’s off-grid medicine course is not your typical first aid class. It’s not EMT school. I mean no disrespect towards them at all, but those first responder classes are like baby aspirin. What Dr. Steve provides is more like dilaudid or fentanyl. (No, he does not sell these or tell us how to get them. It’s just for comparison between the types of courses. However, there does seem to be the possibility of developing an addiction of sorts. Three of the people from the February class repeated the August class and brought family members with them.)

The Man Behind the Course

A Special Forces Battalion surgeon, University of Utah Medical School faculty member, Utah Emergency Physician of the Year, paramedic– the list goes on. This is Dr. Steve Pehrson, the man behind OnPoint Tactical’s Off-Grid Medicine course. The list of credentials might be as intimidating as it is impressive and could scare some potential students away. However, what isn’t mentioned in his biography and course description is that Dr. Steve Pehrson is this kind of cuddly-looking grandpa with a great sense of humor and surprising lack of the God-complex that seems to afflict some doctors.

When asked what he likes to do for fun he replied, “Teach this class.” It must be true because Steve starts at 8:00 to 8:30, and he’s usually still going strong 12 hours later. Then he’s ready to start again the next morning! And the students are, too.

Simple Explanations

Dr. Steve somehow provides simple explanations of complex anatomical and physiological processes and chemistry. (If I’d had him as a professor in college, I might have followed through with the original plan of studying medicine.) But familiarity with medicine is definitely not a prerequisite. In fact, in the two classes I have attended, there has only been one person in each class with any formal training in medicine. The rest have been regular people—student, pilot, wilderness guide, computer guy, homeschool mom, et cetera. And while Steve’s experience includes extensive time treating people all over the world during humanitarian missions, as well as treating weekend warriors in the emergency room, parents too will benefit greatly from this class. This is because in addition to everything else Steve is also a family physician.

Class Material

Before class, Steve emails links to lectures and articles to be reviewed prior to the start of class. This advance class material allows more hands on time. He tailors each class to the students. It is slightly different each time based on what worked in previous classes and the desires of the students. This course is designed for people who want to be prepared for a time when there is no doctor or other medical care available to be able to handle broken bones, disease, serious wounds and blood loss, and other acute and chronic conditions, ranging from infants to the elderly. At the start of class, Steve provides a binder of copies of almost every slide used in his presentation with space for note-taking.

Modern Medical Issues Without Modern Technology

Doctor Steve is not actually teaching brain surgery. He does show what you can do to save a person’s life and quality of life by means of suturing, splinting, anesthesia, supply acquisition, and other skills. He tries to help students accept that there are going to be deaths because the technology we take for granted today will someday disappear. Sstudents are taught how to manage modern medical issues without modern technology, without resupply, and at the same time how to address the communicable diseases that most doctors have never even seen. And because modern medicine isn’t always going to be here, and neither is our pharmaceutical industry, Steve also shares his personal experiences with the use of herbal medicines or brings in other experts in that field.

Beyond the Baby Aspirin Level

The vast majority of that 1-2% of the population who prepares for TEOTWAWKI does so at the baby aspirin level. They may have some OTC meds and antibiotics, some sutures, and maybe a surgical kit. Dr. Steve educates you on how to use those tools in your surgical kit and what else you are going to want to have and be able to use. Let’s face it. We know what’s coming, and baby aspirin ain’t gonna cut it.


  1. I’m hoping you will expound on this a little. How long is the course? Where is it given and how often? What are the costs? Where can we learn more?
    Great start but it reads like part one of multi-part story. Tell us about your experiences there.

    1. I could have left a much longer review, but I wasn’t sure how much would be appropriate. The course my husband, daughter, and I took was five full days–three 11-12 hour days, one 10-hour day, and one 8-hour day. Again, a lot of that depends on the students’ desires. Lunchtime was always a “working” lunch–20-30 minutes to grab lunch and bring it back for informal discussion and questions. Our cost for the Salt Lake City class, was $795 each; however, it was supposed to be $1100 each, as was the case for the Denver class. Due to technical errors on the website, the owners decided to keep with the advertised $795, but not include the surgical set and many other items but made those available for purchase.

      The OnPoint Tactical website (onpointtactical.com) does not provide a whole lot of detailed information on the course, unfortunately. You could try contacting them directly for your specific questions. I hesitate to post Dr. Steve’s email address here, but if you can get hold of him thru OnPoint Tactical, he is great about answering questions. I’ve emailed him countless times since the Denver class in February, and he always responds in great detail about the medical questions, proper procedures, dosages, sources for supplies, etc.

      As to how often the class is offered, I know that Dr. Steve wants to hold many, many more. He knows what is coming, and there just aren’t going to be prepared doctors available for everyone who needs them, with all the necessary supplies. The problem has been a matter of how to best get the info out to people.

      As far as experiences, where to begin….

      –Maintaining medical records, how to take a proper patient history, asking exact questions. How did that bone fracture occur? Without x-rays, you need to be able to figure out exactly how that bone broke to set it properly

      –How to tape a badly sprained ankle (and how to tell the difference between a sprain and a break without X-rays) so that the injured person can continue walking without crutches

      –Different suture techniques and materials and their various uses–and when not to suture.

      –Proper sterilization of tools and supplies–without an autoclave

      –Moving patients

      –People with conditions that modern technology manages today but who will die without our technology, sooner or later, and being able to accept that–and accept that their families will be angry if you make the decision not to treat and save precious resources for those who can be helped. Like burn patients–even a burn covering 10% of the body can be life-threatening. A burn covering 25-30%? That person will use up a heckuva lot of resources, and will die anyway. What are you going to do?

      –Anesthesia–how to administer local anesthetics, how to obtain them (yes, you can legally purchase and possess lidocaine and epinephrine–and those two alone can be very, very beneficial)

      –How to use OTC meds to be the equivalent of prescription strength meds

      –Checking vitals

      –Various medical bags, what he carries, what is pointless, how to package and pack supplies for ease of use, etc.

      –Where to get supplies, especially reusable supplies

      –Dehydration, and how to hydrate without an IV (because inserting an IV is a perishable skill, and it’s really hard even for trained personnel to put an IV into someone who is seriously dehydrated)

      Unlike the attached picture suggests, this class is all indoors, other than the brief plant walk we took with the herbal medic Sam Coffman.

      The herbal portion of the class covered two days. It covered the process of making herbal tinctures, the importance of understanding the herbs you use (do no harm), combining herbs to achieve the best results, herbal antibiotics.

      Again, this is not first aid. It’s not EMT school. This is stuff most parents would love to know before having children (you know, like whether that cut requires a trip to the ER, whether that sprain is going to heal on its own, whether you can handle that shoulder dislocation yourself and avoid the ER altogether, etc.). It’s stuff every serious backpacker and homesteader should know–the stuff all of us really should know even if TEOTWAWKI never happens.

      Any other questions?

      1. To clarify: A course is one of the prizes in our bi-monthly writing contest: “A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795.” I think we can safely assume that in the future, for a five day course like this one ($1,100), the $795 value of a three day course would be applied, and the prize winner would only pay the difference.

  2. Dear Retired cop,

    An Internet search revealed Doctor Steve Pehrsen instructing a class in Utah, fUSA.
    September 10th, 2018.
    Five days, US$1100.

    The instructor appears to possess the necessary information and skills.

    I hope this helps answer your question.

    If I hadn’t been through a dozen similar classes in the last few decades, you would see me there.

  3. To JR,
    Thank you for your response. Please don’t take my remarks as criticism, I was just left wanting more. I appreciate the follow up and I hope you will do a follow up article. This is very important info and needs to be out there.
    I’m a retired cop married to an RN. In our lives we’ve both been volunteer firefighters and first responders. We’ve had the standard first aid, first responder, and EMT training and I’ve served on a Haz-Mat and civilian chemical warfare response team. All of those skills ( and sometimes the appropriate triage mindset) are perishable skills as well as sometimes outdated. For instance, we used to be taught that a tourniquet was a very short term, special use tool. Now, with new skills from Afghanistan, most cops are taught to carry one or more and use them on gunshots wounds and other heavy bleeders to extremities, and that they can be in place for many hours without damage (up to ten or more hours in my training, I think in practice in combat its more than double that).
    All of that is to say, you can never get enough and my wife and I will be in that course soon.

    1. I definitely did not take your response as criticism and sure hope my reply was not interpreted that way as well.

      Yes, tourniquet use was also covered in the course, but we were taught for no more than six hours because we are also not planning on any higher medical care being available. Unfortunately, most people are taught only about the tourniquets used by the military, generally for people with well-developed arm muscles. But those tourniquets aren’t going to work on small children and old women with thin arms.

      If Mr Rawles and/or Mr Latimer are willing to publish a more extensive review of the class, I will be happy to write one. I just hate to put all that effort into writing (and it takes me forever to compose my articles) when it might not be what they are looking for.

      On a side note, the building used for this most recent class is rented out for wedding receptions. A nurse and her husband somehow wandered over to our side during dinner. After learning about the course, they also planned to sign up for the next session.

  4. Sounds like a great course . Was never impressed with the old CPR / first aid training. The ” first responder” is a little bit better.

    But as one EMT told me it’s basically “plug and lug”.

    Plane fare from the east coast and a hotel room would bump up that price to above $2000.

    Don’t get me wrong. it’s very tempting 🙂

    Speaking of tourniquets. The cat tourniquets are expensive and now they say there’s cheap Chinese knockoffs out there as well.

    One class we had a paramedic raving about what looked like a bicycle inner tube. Probably cheaper than the fancy cat tourniquet and more universal.

    Great article. thanks for sharing.

    1. @sirlancelot

      But as one EMT told me it’s basically “plug and lug”.

      As my son’ who is also an EMT’ likes to say – “Diesel Fuel – the number one drug of choice for EMTs around the world”

  5. I have been looking for a course like this for a while. Thanks for the information and for the great follow up. Survival blog is a brilliant idea and has outstanding execution. Again, thanks.

  6. JR, medical treatment in a SHTF situation has always been a low priority in my mind, so I usually don’t have much interest in articles that pertain to subjects such as this, but once I started reading I couldn’t believe it was over so quickly. But that’s the way it is when something is so interesting. Great article. Trekker Out

  7. Sounds very interesting to me as well. BTW, HJL, I’m not familiar with the term “Diesel Fuel” in the context of this discussion. Would you please clue me in? My guess is for transportation of patients?

    1. Yep. Most ambulances around here have Diesel engines. Doctors usually don’t want EMTs to do any thing more than they have to to get the patient ready for transport. Plug the hole and burn Diesel so to speak.

  8. OnPointTactical puts on very high quality courses. They used to hold their Urban E&E class where I worked and EVERY person that I talked to after the classes said they were worth every penny.

    1. Their medical course is absolutely worth every penny and every minute–and worth all the travel expense as well. However, I thought I should have added in the review to not be put off by OnPoint Tactical’s website. While the website is a bit lacking, the courses definitely are not.

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