If you want to work in medicine, but you want to join the Navy for the action, you can become a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman. A Navy corpsman provides the hands-on care prescribed for Navy members and dependents, gets to save lives in an emergency room, may learn to perform advanced diagnostic procedures or go out into the field on missions with the pointiest point of the Navy's three-pronged spear.
What Corpsmen Learn
In 19 weeks of intense training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, students learn about the body and how it operates, medical terminology and the basics of patient care. They also complete training as emergency medical technicians and basic life support. Additional classes may add up to a year to the training, however, if the student is destined for a specialty. Some corpsmen receive training in medical fields that require more than basic lifesaving or nursing skills.
In Navy hospitals, corpsmen attend to a wide range of duties. Corpsmen work in administration and medical records. They administer medication to patients, based on physicians' orders. Part of their training includes learning to administer injections and draw blood, two of the many skills required in a Navy hospital. Some, with additional training, also provide other clinical services, such as preparing prescriptions, taking X-rays or CT scans or assisting in physical therapy.
Additional training is available to graduates of the program. The additional skills enable them to work in fields such as radiology, dentistry, pharmacy, advanced patient care or advanced cardiac life support. Some courses require selected corpsmen who hold the rank of petty officer third class or above, to go above and beyond. They train as the medical specialists who provide medical services in the field with U.S. Marines and Navy SEALS.
SEALS and Force Recon
Selected hospital corpsmen may try out for non-medical courses, such as Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, as part of the training required to become a special operations independent duty corpsman. If successful, these corpsmen are assigned to the Navy's SEALs and the USMC Force Reconnaissance teams. The training prepares the corpsman as a first responder in combat and, if necessary, a surgeon. This training, conducted at Ft. Bragg, N.C., lasts 24 weeks and includes both classroom and extensive field training.
If the corpsman stays in the service, additional training may lead to work as a physician's assistant. If a corpsman leaves the service, the basic corpsman school is recognized by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians as a valid training source to qualify for work as an Emergency medical technician or paramedic. Employment in the many subjects in which Navy hospital corpsmen are trained varies from state to state and depends on whether a state accepts the corpsman's training as sufficient.
Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.