Students from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland will have their graduation day moved up to April so they’ll be able to support the Defense Department's coronavirus pandemic response as soon as possible.
About 170 medical school students and 60 graduate-level nurses will be able report to their next duty stations sooner rather than later.
The graduating physicians will have to work under the supervision of licensed physicians “appropriate within the limits of their duty stations” because they have not completed their required internships, but they will be able to do tasks such as screening patients and taking health histories.
Roughly a third of the physicians will likely go into emergency medicine, internal medicine or family medicine. The remainder will specialize in a number of other fields such as general surgery, anesthesia, orthopedics, and psychiatry.
Since the nurses all have experience and are graduating with advanced degrees, they will proceed directly to assigned duty stations in specialties such as nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and certified registered nurse anesthetists.
USUHS President Dr. Richard Thomas said he began considering the early graduation several weeks ago, to ensure that "everyone was leaning forward" during the national crisis, according to an interview with Military.com.
"West Point [and] Annapolis during World War II, they early-graduated several classes in a row to make sure they had more officers going into the force. That's what we are doing here," Thomas said. "They are fully trained and they are at the tail-end of their time here, so we expedited a few things at the end of the year ... so they are available to their services ... and to the nation."
Last week, the Army sent a notification to more than 800,000 retired soldiers regarding returning to service in a volunteer capacity. In a Pentagon briefing Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville called the initial response "very, very positive."
According to ABC News, more than 9,000 retired soldiers have responded to the U.S. Army's call.
Thomas said the university’s accelerated graduation doesn’t imply that the services' medical corps are short-handed but "these guys will be welcome additions to the medical teams."
"The reasons people call the military to these types of things is because we have great medical capability," Thomas said. "They [also] bring logistics support, they bring security and they bring command and control. Those three big things are very important in any crisis. And if it's a medical crisis, the military can bring unique medical capability to the fight like no one else."