U.S. NAVY MEDICAL SERVICE CORPS SOFT EPAULETS

The Navy Medical Service Corps comprises three communities: Health Care Administration (HCA), Health Care Sciences (HCS), and Clinical Care Providers (CCS). Each community is further divided into subspecialties; HCA and CCS have ten specialties, while HCS has eleven.

Looking at the distribution of officers within each specialty, you understandably see greater proportions of them in specialties with the broadest reach or addressing the most urgent needs. In a 2007 study examining retention rates in the Navy Medical Service Corps, more than half of the officers in the HCA community were working in the subspecialty of General Health Care Administration; in the CCS community, three subspecialties—Physician’s Assistants, Optometrists, General Pharmacists, Clinical Psychologists—made up 59 percent of the personnel, with Physician’s Assistants accounting for nearly 30 percent of the total.

Titled “Effects of the global war on terror on Medical Service Corps retention rates,” the study drew some interesting conclusions, particularly regarding the effect that deployment to combat zones had on the retention rate of Medical Service Corps officers. In contrast to what casual observers might expect, it turned out that Corps officers who had been deployed—whether a general deployment or a deployment to hostile area—were less likely to leave the Navy when their initial service obligation ended (typically after three or four years). Although the author could not point to a specific reason for this, the results suggested that officers in the Medical Service Corps who had the opportunity to put their training to use in a “real” setting likely had a greater sense of satisfaction in their jobs, and also felt a stronger sense of duty than officers who were not deployed.

A secondary finding also validated one of the Navy’s most valuable officer accession methods for the Medical Service Corps: the In-Service Procurement Program (IPP). Created to give enlisted personnel a chance to become line or staff officers, the IPP not only produces a significant number of officers for the Corps, but also officers who are more likely to choose stay in the Navy even when their service obligations are fulfilled. The study found that officers from the IPP were six percent more likely to stay in the service than officers who joined the Corps through direct commission.

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