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6 things you didn't know about sick call

"Hydrate, take Motrin and change your socks."


Chances are you've heard this advice at one time or another. Service members visit sick call with issues ranging from upper respiratory infections to needing to have a toenail removed. With over 130 military installations located throughout the world, every soldier, airman, sailor or Marine has medical care readily accessible. 

If the troop in question needs to go to medical that day without an appointment, he or she is going to end up in an urgent care center commonly known as "Sick Call." Here are six things you probably didn't know about sick troops and the care they need to get back to work.

1. Thermometers 

You're sitting on a patient table when a medical technician tells you to say "AHHHHHHH" before sticking a blue-handled thermometer under your tongue. But did you ever wonder why it was color coded?

The military purchases dual-function thermometers which are typically red and blue. The blue one is assigned to take your oral temp, where the red draws the short end of the stick and gets shoved up where the sun doesn't shine. Not to fear, rectal temperature checks are primarily used on heat causalities.

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Christopher L. Clark)

Better hope the nurse isn't color blind because ... that would suck. The photo above shows a member of the medical staff using the right color. A+.

2.  The "Feared Medical Condition Not Demonstrated"

Believe it or not, this is a real medical diagnosis. If you were to open your medical record right now and saw this term printed one or more times, chances are you were a "sick call commando."  This isn't the commando label you want to have.

Reel-Life Commando John Matrix killing off the bad guys in "Commando." (Fox)

"Feared Medical Condition Not Demonstrated" is a polite way to inform other medical professionals they didn't find anything wrong with you physically. You can try and tear out the paper from your record, but unless it was hand written, it's in the computer system. For-ev-er.

3. "One Chief Complaint Only"

For those who don't know, a "chief complaint" is the term used for the reason you showed up to medical. "I have a headache and I think I broke my foot." From my direct experience working alongside seasoned doctors, some stated to the patient they weren't allowed to treat more than one medical condition at each encounter. It's also bull.

"I pity the fool that shows up to sick call."

This is regularly used as an excuse to get rid of you. You would likely have come back the next day for the second issue or visit the ER. Good thing Tricare covers both.

4. On The Job Training

Medical clinics commonly use the ideology of "show one, do one, teach one." The doctor shows a new medic/corpsman/tech how to perform a procedure, they repeat it on another patient in front of the doctor, then go off and show someone else how to perform it. Sounds like a pretty good plan right? It was pretty darn helpful and a confidence builder for the lower enlisted.

"Now graft it onto the left ventricle. Good job, airman. I'm going to lunch." (asonor.com)

This type of training isn't that rare, even in the civilian sector. What is rare is how many different procedures junior enlisted were allowed to perform "under doctor supervision" – who were usually warming up their afternoon coffee.

5. Service Connections

When the VA gathers its data to process your compensation claim, it may seem hard to believe, but they don't hire a team of private detectives and Harvard-trained doctors to conduct an extensive investigation to ensure that you get the top rating you deserve.

Mind. Blown.

After submitting your claim, the VA board wants proof your condition was a result of your time on active duty. Missing sick call and other medical documents can cause a massive delay in reaching your service connection settlement. Cover your six and make copies of your copies.

6. Legal

You may remember the day when you walked into the Military Entrance Processing Command and signed your service contract. A proud day.

What you made not have realized is that those papers you signed included The Feres Doctrine.

The Feres Doctrine is a 1950s-era rule that protects the federal government from its employees collecting damages for personal injuries experienced in the performance of their duties. So if a military doctor screws up on you, you can't sue the government, but they can charge you with an Article 108 (destruction of government property) for getting a new tattoo or a sunburn.

You're Welcome, America!