Profession

Med school program provides care for police on front lines

The tactical emergency division applies on-the-scene trauma care to civilian settings.

By Susan J. Landers — Posted Dec. 14, 2009

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

"Officer down" isn't just dialog from a TV police drama for physicians in Wright State University's Division of Tactical Emergency Medicine in Dayton, Ohio. Instead, those words may signal the real-life need to sprint to the side of a wounded police officer.

The emergency medicine department at Wright's Boonshoft School of Medicine has provided specialized support to local law enforcement agencies for about 15 years. In July, a new division was created to better organize the department's teams of physicians and extend services to other agencies.

"In high-threat situations, conventional emergency medical services personnel may not be equipped or qualified to respond safely and effectively," said Brian Springer, MD, director of the division and an assistant professor of emergency medicine. "This is particularly true for special operations, such as aviation, bomb disposal and SWAT teams."

Faculty members and a rotating crew of about 10 medical residents are called 15 or 20 times a year to stand by in case medical treatment is required by local officers. Treatment also is provided to injured bystanders and alleged perpetrators.

Awareness of tactical emergency medicine and its benefits is growing. Medical professionals have been reported to be embedded in many SWAT teams, which also train members as medics.

Wright State is one of the few medical schools to have a formal program devoted to tactical emergency medicine. When called by a law enforcement agency, emergency team members go to the scene, medical gear in hand. They wear bulletproof vests but generally don't carry weapons.

"I carry a large backpack with airway management equipment and IV fluids," said James Brown, MD, acting emergency department chair and director of the school's emergency medicine residency program.

Team members stay close to the action. "Some of the officers who are shot in the face or neck will die within the next couple of minutes. So having us in a safe vehicle a couple of blocks down the street isn't good," Dr. Brown said.

Giving treatment in these high-threat situations means "you do an assessment and as much as you can for the patient without making any noise or shining a light," Dr. Brown said. "You do things by touch, smell and feel."

Teaching as well as treating

Training goes beyond treatment of gunshot wounds and also covers weather-related problems. Hyperthermia, for example, is a risk when officers wearing body armor endure a lengthy standoff in 95-degree heat. Hypothermia can be a risk for police snipers who may lie in 20-degree temperatures for hours.

Despite the lethal possibilities of responding to ongoing police situations, there have been no deaths or severe injuries among Wright's medical teams.

Away from the danger zone, members of the division serve as team physicians for officers, teaching them how to avoid injuries.

The program not only serves as a community service but also provides training opportunities for emergency medicine residents, many of whom are active-duty Air Force personnel from nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Dr. Springer hopes the program someday will maintain an around-the-clock support center serving all regional law enforcement agencies. "There should be no high-risk law enforcement activities going on in this region where we don't have the proper medical support."

Back to top


External links

Division of Tactical Emergency Medicine, Wright State University's Boonshoft School of Medicine (link)

Back to top


ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISE HERE


Featured
Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story


Read story

Goodbye

American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story


Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story


Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story


Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story


Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story


Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story


Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn