How army combat medic training is different from civilian EMS

Army combat medics are trained to provide medical assistance in combat situations and can do trauma care that's beyond the scope of civilian medics with EMS or EMT training


This article was updated May 16, 2017

Although they are similarities, army combat medic training and civilian medic training are two different things. The main difference between EMS/EMT training and army medic training is that army medics are trained to provide medical assistance in combat situations and can do trauma care that's beyond the scope of a civilian medic.

However, there is more that separates military medics from their civilian counterparts.

How army combat medics and EMTs are the same

Army medics are trained to perform many of the same functions as civilian EMTs. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

First, it’s important to understand where army medics and Emergency Medical Technicians overlap in their expertise.

Like civilian medics, army combat medics can provide:

  • Inoculations
  • Taking patient histories
  • CPR
  • Bandaging
  • Stabilization of broken bones

Army medics are also trained in intravenous procedures and advanced lifesaving techniques that go beyond the EMT skill level but can be achieved by civilians who train as paramedics.

What separates army medics from civilian EMS?

All army medics must go through basic training like any other soldier before the medic-specific portion of their training. (Photo/Pixabay)

While army medics can generally complete all the required duties of a civilian EMT, their advanced training is what really sets them apart.

Army medics must complete basic combat training, just like any combat soldier. After that, they undergo advanced training at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. That phase of their army medic training can take anywhere from 16 to 68 weeks and includes:

  • Classroom and practical field exercises. 
  • EMT skills 
  • Intravenous procedure training.

Army medic training continues after they're assigned to an army unit, where they learn more advanced combat medical treatments including:

  • Hemorrhage control 
  • Placement of chest seals or tubes. 

Army hospitals don't usually have many Licensed Practical Nurses and may use medics to fill those positions.

Advanced training for army medics

Army medics can train as a combat medic with Special Operations Forces for battle situations. (Photo/Army.mil)

Past the general training that all army medics go through, there are several advanced trainings that they can pursue, such as:

Physician assistant program 

This rigorous program takes two years for U.S. army medics to complete. After this program enlisted men are promoted to the position of officer and allowed to take the civilian Physician's Assistant certification test, if they choose. The new officers are also awarded a civilian master's degree.

Army combat medic with Special Operations Forces

This training takes eight months to complete. The combat medic program gives medics in the army the most autonomy to perform medical treatments of any army medical personnel. If there is no medical doctor present, combat medics can perform some of the same advanced procedures that doctors are authorized to undertake.  Army medics who work in combat situations deal with bomb injuries, amputations, penetration wounds with severe bleeding and emergency medical evacuation procedures, unlike EMS medics.

All in all, there are many similarities and many differences between army medic training and civilian medic training. Some army medics end up in military hospitals and clinics where they perform many of the same procedures as civilian nurses. 

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