Military Service + Work Environment

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As a military physician, you’ll serve your country and the world. With facilities and deployments available to you from around the globe, your medical practice offers a range of experiences and care that few civilian roles can match, which include humanitarian response and disaster recovery for some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.


Deployment is a temporary assignment which occurs as a part of a mobilized military operation or exercise. During deployment, all your military, medical and leadership training comes into play. The frequency of your deployments will depend on your military service, your specialty and the needs of the nation at the time.

Deployment length can vary from three to 15 months. Keep in mind that a deployment is different from being stationed in a specific location, such as a military medical center, for a longer term. This is referred to as a Permanent Change of Station, or PCS.

Reserve and Guard physicians are expected to drill one weekend a month and two full weeks during the year, but you may also be called up to assist in missions at home and abroad. All Reserve and Guard deployments depend on whether your skill is needed at a given time. In that case, you will deploy alongside the active-duty Military, and the length of your deployment will be the same.

Ask an Airman: What Is Deployment Like?

Hear from Air Force service members as they share their experiences working at a medical center.

Ask an Airman: What Is Deployment Like?

Hear from Air Force service members as they share their experiences working at a medical center.

BRINKMAN: So pharmacists do deploy. There are a variety of locations that pharmacists

deploy to. We're a part of a lot of the teams that are in critical care transport, not necessarily on the plains but we're there ready for the patient's as they arrive to make sure that we're providing great care for them.

ADKINS: You are often in areas that are a steer remote, removed from everyone, everything you know. It's like I tell my students sometimes, all the buddies you have are the ones you brought with you. So it makes for fast friendships. You get to know the people you're deployed with on a very personal level and get to appreciate them for what they are, what they can do, and some of those friendships can last a lifetime. From my first deployment, I'm still in touch with the colonel I deployed with - outstanding guy.

SPENCER: I've had the great honour to deploy six times and each one of those deployments was a little bit different because I deployed to different locations. I personally have not been deployed, but I do know what it's like to be the spouse of someone who is deployed. My wife is also a dentist for the Air Force, and she went to Kuwait. I was without her for about 6 or 7 months and it's difficult, but to see them shine and take on the responsibilities and soar to new levels was really important for me.

Medical Treatment Facilities

If you are not deployed, you may serve at a medical treatment facility, such as an installation hospital or clinic, where you will care for service members and their families. Or, if you have a background in primary care, you may become a general medical officer attached to a specific unit. In either case, you will provide wellness for service members, making sure they are fit enough to carry out their duties, while also keeping their families healthy.

In addition, the longer you stay in the Military, the more you increase your chance of choosing an administrative, research or academic track.

Day In The Life

Take a tour of a one-stop medical care facility, with Army surgeon Hunter Winegarner.
Hunter Winegarner, M.D.

Special Forces Battalion Surgeon, Army

Special Forces Clinic Tour

Hunter gives a tour of the 10th Group Special Forces clinic, which has adopted the Soldier Centered Medical Home model where soldiers receive one-stop medical care.

More About the Work Environment

WINEGARNER: So here we are. We're at the 10th Group Special Forces Clinic that we share with Robinson Clinic. This is where we see all our patients every day. And this is also where patients would come if they were injured on the jump for Airborne Jumps. We've actually just recently gone to what's called the Soldier Center Medical Home Model. And so basically the Soldier Center Medical Home is a place where a soldier can come and get all the things that they need in one stop. This hallway is mostly all exam rooms; they're multipurpose exam rooms. We have these treatment rooms; it's pretty nice to have something like this here in our clinic because we can take care of some of the sicker patients without having to send them up to the ER. We have our physical therapy room, and this is where we do a lot of our musculoskeletal physical therapy rehab. At the end of this hallway we would run into our pharmacy and our lab, and that's where patients can go and get their meds after they see us, and they can go and get blood drawn or do urine studies, those kind of things. So it's a one-stop-shop for them, so to speak. Working here in this clinic is great, because, you know, we're a pretty small little family; this is a one place where all our patients can come and just get everything that they need, and we're here basically every single day, from morning till evening, unless we're out in the field doing something with the guys. And so our guys know that they can come here and find this if they need something from us.

Humanitarian Missions

Military physicians can be deployed to provide relief after natural disasters.

For example, Navy physicians have traveled on the U.S. Navy Ship (USNS) Comfort to provide aid to earthquake victims. This humanitarian part of the mission may also extend to providing relief to civilians in war zones. Closer to home, physicians in the Army National Guard or Air National Guard serve both the governor of their respective states and the president, and in these roles may be asked to assist with medical needs and recovery during local emergencies.

While the humanitarian mission of each Service branch will vary, generally you can be expected to provide health services to tens of thousands of people at home and abroad. Services range from routine primary care, with specialties that can include:

  • Dentistry
  • Emergency medicine
  • Family medicine
  • General surgery
  • Infectious disease
  • OB/GYN
  • Optometry
  • Physical therapy
  • Pediatrics

Additionally, civil engineering programs, disaster relief, and international medical training initiatives are often associated with these missions. Regardless of where a humanitarian mission might occur, the goal is the same: to facilitate regional, military, civilian, and non-governmental cooperation and interoperability while building up communities in need.

Returning to Make a Difference

Learn more about the incredible experience one Army service member gained from humanitarian missions.

Returning to Make a Difference

Learn more about the incredible experience one Army service member gained from humanitarian missions.

MARTINEZ: So I’ve been here for two weeks and I’m already experiencing these great changes and differences that we make for this country and I’m really enjoying it. I have nothing the culture's not new to me I left this country when I was six years old. I I grew up in a in a very poor home water would come to our house once a week. I used to go out selling frozen kool-aid bags so that we'd have money at home so from that change to who I am now makes me want to work even harder to help and make a difference into other people's life. Being able to refamiliarize myself with my culture it is an extreme blessing I um you know I want to capitalize on that and. I may not be able to help every person but the few people that we help it just makes a whole difference. I’ve seen all these major branches here and I feel I feel important being part of this. I feel like it's a great work and um I I think it's just incredible how we have all this equipment and we're able to help the people after heal. they've expressed their gratitude and that's all that that we ask for in return and and they they show it they show their gratitude and. I’ve been asked by several of the local people in Honduras how long have you been here and when do you leave? I tell them I’ve been here two weeks and I leave in august their response is that's forever away. For me that's not enough time. there's so much work to do but when I leave this place I want to feel like I can finally rest. [Music]

Practicing in Different Settings

As a military physician, you will practice medicine in an incredible range of facilities, locations and conditions. This is not a job where you’ll be tied to a single office.

While you may treat patients in a military hospital or clinic, there is also the chance to treat them on a ship, on a plane or, more rarely, in a combat zone. Military hospitals and clinics, also known as direct care military treatment facilities (MTFs).

Furthermore, the research and resources afforded to the Military mean you will be working with tools and technology that are as good as, if not better than, what you will find in any civilian hospital.

Navy Medicine - HoloLens Gaming Tech Augmented Reality Trauma Training

Watch how medics use technology to support medical field operations.

Navy Medicine - HoloLens Gaming Tech Augmented Reality Trauma Training

Watch how medics use technology to support medical field operations.

NARRATOR: We have the opportunity to use a HoloLens to assist paramedics and first responders in a field amputation. What we did was we used technology originally created for gaming technology. We are streaming in for the provider that is going to be mentoring through what we call telementoring through a procedure. They can see what we see. They can hear what we audibly tell them and through a little bit of surrounding sound. If we had a patient that couldn’t be moved or an on-scene where we couldn’t the doctors and practitioners to the scene, we would perform something like this where we use telementoring. The better we get at using it, the more we will be able to adapt it to our needs in the medical field and military. I think every year this technology gets better. It gets better, it gets faster, it gets smarter and easier to use. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Patient Pool

With millions of beneficiaries, you’ll discover that military service members, veterans and their families represent a diverse, rewarding patient population to treat and help with their healthcare needs.

And while most patients will be active duty service members and their families, there are also military veterans who comprise a particularly special patient pool. Many physicians who help treat and heal this unique patient population often feel an incredible sense of reward hearing a veteran’s stories of service and of serving something bigger than themselves. Note that this does not include Veterans Affairs medical responsibilities or working at a VA hospital, which fall under a different mission than that of the Department of Defense.

Medical aid is also provided to countless domestic civilians and international audiences as part of the U.S. Military’s global humanitarian efforts. These initiatives can include aid for national and humanitarian disasters, as just one example.

Ultimately, serving warfighters and veterans represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve some of the most dedicated people in the country. These men and women have dedicated their lives and careers to defending the country and ensuring the freedom of all citizens. Military physicians have been serving alongside our Active Duty since the foundation of the United States and are an essential part of the Military.

The Uniformed Services Employment And Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)

The USERRA protects members of the Reserve and Guard and ensures that you return to your civilian job after a period of deployment.

If you are a medical student participating in the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) or attending the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), or if you are a resident in the Financial Assistance Program (FAP), you will not deploy until you are finished with your medical training.

More About USERRA