July 15, 2014, San Diego (NNS) – According to the 2010 U.S. Census, medical professionals account for nearly 2 percent of America’s approximately 314 million citizens.
While recruiting out of that minuscule 2 percent may already seem tough enough, factor in the difficulties of meeting Navy physical standards, age restrictions, specific fields of study to fit the needs of the Navy, test scores, etc., and the task of medical recruiting in the U.S. Navy can seem extremely daunting.
The Medical Recruiting Academy (MRA), offered four times throughout the year in San Diego, addresses these issues head-on and focuses on teaching the special recruiting techniques necessary to tap into the professional medical communities to find talented medical professionals to bring into the Navy’s many healthcare fields.
“We bring recruiters from all over the nation together to teach them everything about the medical accession programs Navy recruiting offers,” said Lt. Richard Fail, the national team trainer for medical programs. “But more importantly we’ve taken tours of Navy hospitals so they can learn more about who Navy medicine is and how we deliver optimum healthcare.”
The weeklong academy includes coursework focused on specific fields of Navy medicine, including the Medical Service Corps, Medical and Dental Corps, and Nurse Corps, a tour of Naval Medical Center San Diego, and a panel discussion with healthcare professionals who made the switch from civilian practices to Navy medicine.
Additionally, there were two special presentations by Capt. James Chun, career planner at the Office of the Medical Corps Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, and Dr. Sandra Yerkes, program manager for Navy medicine accession programs and a retired Navy captain.
Chun spoke to the medical recruiters on exactly what the Medical Corps is looking for with regards to education, training, experience and motivation in young medical students and professionals seeking a commission in the Navy Medical Corps.
“The biggest challenge in recruiting is explaining to the civilian professional the nuances and expectations of military medicine,” said Chun. “This includes potential geographic reassignments, and operational requirements, including deployments, and their impact to their practice and family life.”
Yerkes, who has held her position with Navy medicine accession programs for eight years, makes her presentation three to four times a year at the MRA, and details the numerous scholarship programs available in the medical corps including the Health Professions Scholarship Program.
“We start at a very early age so they’re out there looking for folks who are going into medical school, so it’s quite a challenge,” said Yerkes. “How do you choose the best people to come into this program so that in nine years down the road when they are finally a fully trained specialist they’re the experts in their field? It’s a tough job.”
Many of the medical recruiters in attendance noted the difficulty in not only finding qualified, young medical professionals and students, but also in helping push them through the Navy’s rigorous application process.
“One of the difficult things in recruiting is finding qualified applicants that not only qualify because of the degree that they hold or their position in a hospital, but also that are physically qualified and meet all the needs of the Navy,” said Lt. j.g. Charles Bayorek, Medical Officer Recruiter at Naval Officer Recruiting Station Charleston. “Just because they’re a physician doesn’t mean they will make a great naval officer. Finding that total combination, that whole person, can be difficult.
The MRA, led by Fail, who began medical recruiting in 2006 with NRD New Orleans and now runs the academy, teaches its students how to overcome these various difficulties.
“Market analysis and prospecting are two big things we focus on for the recruiters,” said Fail. “Where to go and find these healthcare professionals out in the civilian market and then how to enter those facilities to close the gap on the knowledge of the medical programs the Navy has to offer.
Perhaps most beneficial to the recruiters was the chance to tour Naval Medical Center San Diego and experience firsthand the day-to-day of being a medical professional in the Navy.
“The tour at Balboa was really interesting because it gave us a day in the life of that clinical psychologist, that emergency medical physician,” said Stallings. “It gave us great insight on what brought those medical professionals into the Navy, what challenges they faced, and it gave us another aspect on how to approach these individuals.”
After the tour the recruiters participated in a discussion panel with medical professionals from all fields of Navy medicine including physical therapy, healthcare administration, dentistry, microbiology, dermatology, and psychology.
“Sitting there in front of the panel we actually got to hear from people that aren’t in a recruiting field right now talk about how they were recruited…what really helped them out,” said Bayorek. “It really helps us get out there and do the correct things to help these individuals come in and be successful in the military.”
After the conclusion of the academy, the recruiters were able to look back on their week of course and field work and reflect not only on what they learned, but also the bigger picture in medical recruiting.
“One thing I really got out of this course is a better understanding of what we’re focusing on, who we’re looking for and the types of folks we’re looking for,” said Navy Career Counselor 1st Class Damon Sims, medical recruiter from NRD Phoenix. “It’s extremely important to bring medical professionals into the Navy not only to take care of me and my shipmates, but understanding they’re going to be taking care of my family and providing care for me after I’m done with the Navy.”
The MRA will hold its first East coast course next month when it heads to Norfolk, Va., and Fail hopes he can continue to help medical recruiters across the country succeed in bringing in the best possible candidates for Navy medicine.
“In reality, it’s really not that difficult to recruit to this field…but probably 80 percent of the people who graduate from medical, dental and other medical fields have no idea of these Navy programs that are available to them,” said Fail. “This course helps instil in the recruiter the confidence to go out and know specifically where to deliver that information to those potential applicants.”
At the end of the day medical recruiters know it is up to them to go out and find the right people to support the exceptionally important role Navy medicine plays in fleet readiness.
“As a medical recruiter, our mission is to support the warfighter,” said Stallings. “How do we do that? We get those highly trained professionals out into the fleet and take care of our Sailors and Marines.”