Updated: Jul 27
El Paso Sheriff’s Deputies Train in Tactical Medicine on TTUHSC El Paso Campus
On the first floor of the Medical Education Building at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, a group of law enforcement officers cautiously advanced down a hallway, keeping a watchful eye out for an "active shooter" and doing their best to safeguard themselves and their fellow officers.
While preparing to clear a new section of the hallway, two of the officers were unexpectedly shot, prompting their colleagues to quickly carry them to safety while continuing to protect the group.
After reaching a secure area, the other officers promptly assessed their wounded colleagues for injuries. One officer had been shot in the leg and was given a tourniquet, while the other had a grazing wound on the arm.
Law enforcement officers often put their lives at risk to protect the public, leaving them vulnerable to injury. The recent practice scenario on the TTUHSC El Paso campus underscores the critical importance of reliable medical support from fellow officers in such situations.
Prompt medical attention for the injured can make all the difference between life and death, and the officers knew they could count on their team members to provide the necessary medical care.
To gain this critical training, members of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Response Team (formerly known as the S.W.A.T. team) and the TTUHSC El Paso Police Department participated in a full day of tactical medicine training at TTUHSC El Paso in the spring, which included realistic scenarios where they practiced medical treatment in the field. Instruction was provided by Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso's Tactical Medicine Program.
Tactical medicine is a specialty in which physicians render aid to victims and law enforcement at ongoing crime scenes – including mass casualty situations. TTP El Paso’s Tactical Medicine Program, formed in summer 2022, includes the first Tactical Medicine Fellowship in Texas, and the fourth nationally. The fellowship is a one-year program through TTUHSC El Paso, and a new fellow will be chosen every July.
A nine-year member of the sheriff’s team said the squad has trained with other entities and agencies in the past, but this was the first time the Emergency Response Team conducted tactical medicine training with TTUHSC El Paso and its physicians. TTUHSC El Paso is not revealing his identity due to the nature of his job for the sheriff’s office.
“The training was an excellent refresher, especially given that the scenarios are realistic and could apply to many future calls we may respond to as a team,” he said. “It’s always beneficial to hone our skills and gain new insights into different ways of using equipment. The instructors provided us with many ideas on how to use equipment in different manners.”
He added that this training is dynamic and constantly evolving, and what they learned five years ago may not be applicable today.
"It’s crucial to have subject matter experts to help us keep our skills up to date, such as applying tourniquets for self or body application,” he said.
During the training, the team member was assigned to be a victim in three of five scenarios, which he said was a little eerie.
“But it also was comforting to see my team's abilities firsthand,” he said. “In the event of a real emergency, I would feel confident they could provide self-aid and get me to higher-level medical care.”
Robert Root, D.O., from TTUHSC El Paso’s Department of Emergency Medicine, provided the tactical medicine training for the deputies and officers. Root, a Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso emergency medicine specialist, served as an emergency medicine physician in the U.S. Army. Dr. Root leads the TTUHSC El Paso Tactical Medicine Program.
"This type of training is not new, as it has been developed over the past 25 years through military experience, in which I spent seven years,” Dr. Root said. “However, it’s slowly being applied in law enforcement settings, where officers unfortunately often have to deal with gunshot wounds and other serious injuries.”
One of the primary areas of focus in the training is the application of a tourniquet – a device used to apply pressure to a limb to prevent life-threatening external bleeding.
“Although most police officers nowadays carry tourniquets and have received basic training on how to use them, there are specific techniques that can be difficult to master,” Dr. Root said. “We even have officers practice with their eyes closed to ensure they can become experts in applying the technique correctly should they find themselves in a completely dark room during an event.”
Read More: TECH TALK - JUN 16, 2023
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