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A tactical medic is a health care professional who is trained to provide supportive medical care for law enforcement and members of military while in the field. Tactical medicine is a rapidly advancing field that benefits from research and development in the military, as well as ongoing research that takes place within law enforcement organizations. In the 20th century alone, provision of care in the field went from very limited treatment that provided little more than analgesia to people with grave injuries to portable intensive care units for critically injured soldiers.
Like other health care professionals, tactical medics are provided with training that allows them to offer appropriate care in medical emergencies. Depending on the level of training a medic has received, he or she may be able to offer first aid, administer medications, provide life support, and perform minor surgical procedures. This training is provided by an agency or organization that has been accredited to provide medical instruction.
In addition to medical training, a tactical medic also receives training in working under fire, dealing with hostage situations, providing medical treatment in adverse conditions, and managing stress while in the field. Specialized training in ballistics injuries and other wounds common to the field is provided as well, including advanced training in the management of situations like the aftermath of a bombing. A tactical medic must also learn about toxins that may be encountered, ranging from tanker spills to deliberately released toxic agents.
While the primary focus of a tactical medic is on providing supportive care for her or his team and keeping conditions as safe as possible, tactical medics also offer aid to bystanders. In the military, care to enemy wounded is also provided by convention, with medics working to stabilize members of the enemy who cannot be retrieved by their own medical teams. Likewise, law enforcement medics provide medical aid to injured suspects. Tactical medics are also trained in forensics and the handling of evidence so they can collect evidence in accordance with evidentiary procedure and avoid contaminating crime scenes while providing treatment.
Tactical medical personnel usually need to be certified as tactical medics before they can work in the field. They may partner with special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams, military units, and police departments in regions too small to have their own tactical response teams. Like other members of law enforcement and the military, a tactical medic must be prepared to confront a variety of situations on the job, from meth labs to human bombs.
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