By Connor Wolanski, Army Flier Contributing WriterJuly 19, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (July 19, 2012) -- Lyster Army Health Clinic offers a unique program to ensure that Fort Rucker Aviators can rebound from sickness quickly and get back in the air -- the flight surgeon of the day.
"Normally flight units have their own organic flight surgeon, but because of the way we're organized, [Lyster] fills that role here at Fort Rucker," said Lt. Col. Sean Hollonbeck, deputy commander for clinical services at Lyster Army Health Clinic. "We try to do that through having a flight surgeon of the day."
The position of flight surgeon of the day is filled by a team of flight surgeons and physician assistants on a rotating basis, and they carry out a wide range of duties to help get Aviators back on duty.
"What we mostly do here is [provide] new duty up-slips for new permanent party," said Hollonbeck, referring to the documentation that clears an individual for flight duty after a period of sick leave.
"For folks that are permanent party, let's say they had a complicated dental procedure and were given a pain medication -- they can't fly, they're down," said Hollonbeck. "But now they're finished, they're better, and their dentist or doctor, somebody who's not a flight surgeon, says that they're good to go; well, they have to come see us and get an up-slip.
"That's what we do -- our goal is to keep people flying, it's to be rapid and responsive to get those instructor pilots and crew chiefs, to get those folks back up to duty as quick as possible," he said.
While these are the main goals of the flight surgeon of the day program, there are several other needs that those chosen for the position take care of.
"We have a lot of foreign national students who train here, and when they come in they get an inprocessing up-slip as well," said Capt. Justin Wilkie, flight surgeon. He added that the flight surgeon of the day can also carry out overseas screenings for people who may be heading to places where medical care is difficult to get, as well as sign off on convalescent leave for Soldiers who have not yet been assigned a primary care manager.
If there's an Aviator who is sick with no care immediately available, nurses are permitted to triage that person to the flight surgeon of the day, and if there's a mishap on post requiring emergency medical attention, the flight surgeon of the day could very well be the first person on the scene, added Wilkie.
There are, of course, some things that the flight surgeon of the day is not permitted to do.
"It's not a replacement for meetings with primary care providers," said Wilkie. "It's really not fair to think that this person is here to treat chronic medical conditions."
"Sometimes people come to sick call when they really want to see the flight surgeon of the day," added Hollonbeck. "Sometimes what we see is people coming to sick call just to get an up-slip, and they don't need to. There's no reason to wait in that line -- they need to come see the flight surgeon of the day."
Hollonbeck also emphasized the need to bring relevant medical information to any meeting with a flight surgeon of the day in order to smooth the process of getting back to flight duty.
"If [a Soldier is] on any medications or they've seen anybody who's not a flight surgeon, they need to bring that data with them," said Hollonbeck. "They need to bring any relevant data, any medication they're taking, and their medical records -- after all, we're supposed to put their up-slip in their medical record."
The flight surgeon of the day does not have regularly scheduled appointments. Instead, walk-in hours are from 8-11:15 a.m. and 1-2:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.