Sick call aims to get students back in class

By Angela Williams, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 14, 2012

usa image
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 14, 2012) -- For decades, sick call has been a regular part of Army life, but its purpose has evolved.

In the past, the purpose of sick call was to prevent disease outbreak, but today, the main goal of sick call is to get students back in class, according to Lt. Col. Sean Hollonbeck, deputy commander for clinical services at Lyster Army Health Clinic.

"It started when we had huge massive troop formations to separate out injured or ill folks from the folks that were training," he said. "Now we're at a training post. We have a student population. So, we still have sick call."

Sick call, weekdays from 6-6:30 a.m., is for Soldiers who are dealing with a specific issue that appeared within the last three to five days, said Staff Sgt. Antoinette Dingle, NCOIC of the primary care clinic.

"Maybe you've been trying to treat it yourself but it's not getting better, or it's getting worse. That's a sick call issue," she said, adding that "life, limb or eyesight" issues should go straight to the hospital.

If a Soldier has been dealing with an issue for months or years, but is having more severe problems one particular day, they still need to make an appointment, Dingle said.

"We're just going to give you ranger candy, as we call it, and you keep on trucking. That's not going to solve the issue for something that's long term," she said. "You need to be under a doctor's care. Instead of treating something for a second, they can treat it for the long term, so eventually you'll get better."

Sick call is not for profiles, changing a profile or trying to get put on quarters, she added.

All permanent party members, including instructors, are expected to make an appointment rather than go to sick call where students receive top priority, Hollonbeck and Dingle emphasized.

"That's what we have the rest of the clinical day for," Hollonbeck said. "We don't want people to be frustrated when they show up at sick call and they're being told, 'You're not supposed to be here.'"

Another potential source of frustration is the end of sick call.

"At 6:31 a.m., sick call is over," Dingle said. "You have missed sick call."

Sick call has to stop at a specific time to allow the staff to prepare for the day's appointments, Hollonbeck explained. "It sets the stage for every single day."

"If we keep letting the stragglers come in at 6:30 and 6:45, everyone is going to be late," Dingle said. "We have to have a stopping point."

Dingle said Soldiers should be triaged at the unit level to determine if they are dealing with a sick call issue; then released as soon as possible to go to sick call.

"I understand about being accounted for," she said. "But some Soldiers are telling us they had to stay for formation and they weren't released until afterwards. But that just affected the unit and us because instead of getting them in a sick call slot, they might have to go to an appointment."

Soldiers who are released to go to sick call should bring a completed sick call slip with them, Dingle said. It should include why they are there and who is sending them.

Soldiers should also have their yellow cards -- the cards showing their insurance information is current -- when they arrive at sick call, she said. If they don't have a yellow card, they will have to complete one while they are there.

Soldiers will also be required to complete a suicide-prevention form at sick call, she added.

"We have some people who come who do not want to fill that out," she said. "Unfortunately, it's not optional."

Flight students reporting from the emergency room don't have to go to sick call, Dingle said. Instead, they should report to the flight surgeon of the day at 7:45 a.m.

While the main purpose of sick call may have changed over the years, trends still do appear. Because of this, Hollonbeck encouraged Soldiers in training to be more aware of weekend activities.

"We see a lot of preventable injuries," he said. "We're spending all this time with people getting injured and hurt and not finishing training, so people should be more cautious on the weekends."