How to Become a SWAT Medic: Education and Career Roadmap
Research the requirements to become a SWAT medic. Learn about the job description and read the step-by-step process to start a career in tactical medicine.
Do I Want to Be a SWAT Medic?
In the midst of hostile situations, law enforcement officers, civilians, and even suspects may require emergency medical attention. Special weapons and tactics (SWAT) medics provide tactical medical care in situations that are often too dangerous for regular paramedics or ambulance workers. For example, if a SWAT team is under fire and one member gets wounded, a SWAT medic would stabilize the wounded team member while the rest of the SWAT team pursues the shooters.
SWAT medics, like other members of a SWAT team, are exposed to more risks of personal injury and death than most careers. Medics must be able to think clearly and calmly in the line of fire and be comfortable with using weapons themselves. Despite the risks, there is great reward in helping others and saving lives in emergencies. Work environments include much time in training, some office work, and, while in the field, any and all environments and weather conditions. As SWAT teams are employed by local and state governments, benefits are often good and there is a measure of job stability associated with this position.
SWAT medics are usually paramedics who have received specialized training in tactical medicine. Police officers may choose to obtain emergency medical training to become SWAT medics as well, but this article will only address the steps required for the paramedic route.
To become a SWAT medic, individuals must complete emergency medical technician (EMT) training as well as paramedic training. EMTs and paramedics also have to go through certification and licensing processes. The following table highlights some of the common career qualifications necessary for becoming a SWAT medic:
|Degree Level||Vocational certificate or associate degree*|
|Degree Field||Paramedic training*|
|Licensure and/or Certification||State paramedic's license and National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) certification*|
|Experience||Proven experience as a regular paramedic and some experience working with law enforcement as a first responder**|
|Key Skills||Possess sympathy for patients, able to communicate clearly with team members, capable of listening to others, able to solve medical problems* and comfortable following directions from law enforcement**|
|Technical Skills||Possess knowledge of tactical gear and weapons**, familiar with medical equipment (oxygen masks, defibrillators, gurneys and monitors) and skilled at providing emergency medical care*|
|Additional Requirements||Comfortable kneeling and bending in odd positions, strong enough to move patients and willing to work at all hours*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Local law enforcement SWAT medic programs
Step 1: Complete a Paramedic Educational Experience
There are two basic paths that an aspiring SWAT medic can complete in order to be trained as a paramedic. One path is for an individual to first enroll in an EMT-Basic program, which covers fundamental topics such as anatomy and physiology, medical law, allergic reactions, childbirth, patient assessment, basic pharmacology, vital signs, wound care and patient immobilization. After completing this short program, the student would enroll in successively more advanced programs, including EMT-Intermediate and an advanced EMT or paramedic program. These programs would cover more complex concepts, such as diabetic problems, intravenous medications, advanced airway clearing procedures, electrocardiogram (EKG) monitoring and patient health management. When completing a series of programs, each program must be completed before the next can be enrolled in, and licensure at a lower level, such as EMT-Basic, would commonly be required before entering an EMT-Intermediate program.
Another option for students is to enroll in an associate degree program in paramedicine or paramedic technology, which would combine the topics covered in the multiple certificate programs and prepare an individual for paramedic licensure.
- Gain EMT licensure when necessary. If a student is completing multiple EMT and paramedic certificate programs in order to train as a paramedic, relevant licensure at the different EMT levels will typically be required for entry into the next program. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) regulates EMT and paramedic certification. At either the basic or advanced levels, EMTs can become certified if they complete the necessary training programs, hold valid CPR cards and pass the required certification exams. NREMT exams include two parts: knowledge-based (cognitive) questions and skills (psychomotor) questions.
Step 2: Become a Certified and Licensed Paramedic
State licensure is mandatory in all states for paramedics, and requirements for licensure can typically satisfied by earning NREMT certification. Certification typically requires the completion of an exam and a demonstration of the aspiring paramedic's skills and knowledge in the field.
Step 3: Gain Paramedic Experience
In order to be eligible to join a law enforcement tactical team, an individual may need to meet a minimum experience requirement. This could include up to two years of field experience, which would include work such as monitoring hart functions, distributing medicine, performing CPR and transporting patients.
- Keep paramedic certification active. The recertification process for paramedics includes meeting continuing education requirements. Information from the NREMT website shows that paramedics must acquire 72 hours of continuing education every two years, and that 48 of those hours include paramedic training refresher courses. Other recertification requirements include showing evidence of current employment, maintaining CPR cards and passing background checks.
Step 4: Join a Law Enforcement Tactical Team
After working as certified and licensed paramedics, professionals must become affiliated with law enforcement tactical teams prior to starting SWAT medic training programs. Law enforcement agencies already work with emergency medical services providers, so paramedics may have opportunities early on to network with law enforcement agents. Law enforcement agencies may advertise when they have openings for SWAT medics, but paramedics can also talk with SWAT team leaders about joining the task force.
Step 5: Complete Tactical Emergency Medical Services Training
Most tactical medicine or tactical emergency medical services (TEMS) training programs require applicants to show proof of law-enforcement affiliation. Individuals must also verify that they are certified and licensed emergency medical services providers. TEMS training programs all vary in length, since each state has different training requirements.
The majority of programs provide students with weapons and self-defense training, although SWAT medics are not usually required to carry weapons into emergency situations. Nevertheless, if they need to use weapons or restrain suspects, they need to know how to accomplish these tasks. Other training topics may address issues like biological threats, hostage survival, team wellness, ballistic wound patterns, environmental injuries, pediatric trauma, tactical gear, spinal injuries and forensic evidence.
After initial training, SWAT medics participate in routine re-training with SWAT team members. Medics may also train and work with sheriff departments, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Some SWAT teams may require team members to take continuing education courses as well, but this varies by unit.
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