Adapting to Violent Death: The Case of the Combat Medic

It was a pleasure to address my colleagues who study the topic of violent death and help the victims and survivors with great compassion and empathy. I explained that our qualitative research team  at the start that I am in the final year of a three-year study of 848 combat medics and video interviews with 17 their colleagues in the same units believe best represent "medic mettle." However, I was unable to share with them our team's and the entire research group's conclusions just some tantalizing facts that make the project even more interesting. No one will be surprised to learn, for example, that combat medics are just that: They see lots of combat (as measured by a dozen or so stressor variables), in both quality and quantity, in comparison with non-medics of the same rank, age, time in service, and in comparison with all officer ranks. Some may be surprised to learn that combat medics also score very differently than all other specialties: Better behavioral health indicators (e.g., post-traumatic stress indicators). 
Our team was not surprised because medics and corpsmen are revered though out the Army and all other branches of service. That they are referred to by their clients, fellow soldiers form whom they care, as "Doc," a term of endearment. They are perceived and expected to be a Doc and care for others in the unit, including the officers. 
This presentation also provided me with a great opportunity to plug my latest cause: PTSI. Elsewhere I have justified changing the designation of PTSD to PTSI or Post-traumatic Stress Injury. Bill Nash, MD and former psychiatrist for deployed Marines helped invent the concept of injury rather than disorder. A recent Washington Post article, a day after this presentation, noted this important movement to correct the over use and misuse of the diagnosis of PTSD.
Thanks for your interest in this issue. Let's help current and future patients diagnosed with PTSD recognize that diagnoses are a double-edged sword and a cage. Let us focus our considerable knowledge as caregivers to do right for our clients and send the in a direction of resilience, thriving, and growth free of life-numbing drugs and the perception of incurability. It's a hope, it's a goal, and it's the kick I've been on since Kuwait 2004. 
Charles Figley, May 5, 2012, 945AM
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