MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Why can’t he see me? This can be a common question hospital corpsmen hear from patients waiting to be seen at their medical station. What some people may not realize is there are different types of corpsmen in their medical facilities.
Although two corpsmen may be the same rank, their ability to see patients may be different depending on their training. Only independent duty corpsmen can see patients without a physician present.
“We basically do what a physician’s assistant does in the civilian world, just for the active duty personnel,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Anthony Biello, independent duty corpsman, Group Aid Station, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, II MEF.
When a corpsman reaches the rank of petty officer 2nd class, they have the opportunity to apply for Independent Duty Corpsman School. The school is 12 months long and goes beyond the basics of medicine into anatomy, physiology and how medicines affect the body.
“After 12 months of schooling we can prescribe medications, perform very minor surgeries and oversee the work of other corpsman,” Biello said. “Basically we work independently without a medical officer around.”
Biello made his decision to become an IDC early in his career.
“When I was a junior corpsman with an infantry unit, I became pretty close with the IDC I worked for at Camp Pendleton, (California),” Biello said. “I really enjoyed being (a corpsman working at) sick call, so he motivated me to stay in patient care.”
Biello said he chose to apply for the challenging school because he loves practicing medicine.
“It’s kind of a cramming course,” Biello said. “It’s a lot of school in a short amount of time. It’s tough, but it’s a fun school and well worth it.”
After the independent duty corpsmen learn the in-depth teachings of the course, they return to the medical stations to assume their new positions.
“I’ve worked with a lot of IDCs,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Murray, general duty hospital corpsman, II MHG. “On smaller deck ships and some bases, they run the medical facilities.”
IDCs are also a great asset when assigned to work with a physician, said Navy Lt. Janet Robinson, group surgeon, II MHG. She said they allow the physician to deal with patients with more serious medical issues.
“I think they hold a very important place in our military care,” Robinson said. “Whether they are using their corpsman skills or medical provider skills, they are very diverse.”
IDCs not only take care of their patients but also their junior corpsman, she said.
“IDCs do a really good job of being senior corpsmen,” Robinson said. “They are great leaders as well as providers. They really do an excellent job guiding junior corpsmen with their extensive knowledge of the military.”