North Chicago, Ill –
The peak season for Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) is summer, often referred to as the “summer surge.” With teenagers graduating in May, it only makes sense that the greatest number of applicants enlisting would be during the months following.
The increased workload during the surge has come to be expected from personnel at the MEPS, but there are only so many medical reviews that can be conducted in a day. The Army recently sent 85 medical personnel to MEPS across the country to support medical processing during the summer surge.
In June, the Army released a message calling for volunteers to assist with medical processing. Within a month they had assembled a team of 27 providers and 58 medical technicians to deploy to the MEPS. USMEPCOM quickly developed a training plan and picked locations where the medical personnel would make the most impact.
“This was determined by the Sector leadership through reviewing how many prescreens their individual MEPS needed addressed, how many applicants were being held an extra day to complete their examination and the availability of fee-based provider support at the individual MEPS,” said Army Col. Kevin Cummings, USMEPCOM command surgeon. “Once the specific MEPS that most needed support were identified, the higher headquarters supplying the surge providers reviewed the MEPS list and designated their providers for specific locations.”
The technicians went directly to their MEPS beginning July 17, to receive on-the-job training to provide extra support to room applicants, conduct drug screenings and various other tasks to medically process. The providers will conduct medical prescreens and examinations, and with the technicians, will work at the MEPS before returning to their home duty stations at the end of September.
Of the providers, 19 will work exclusively on Army prescreens, while the rest will conduct applicant medical exams at the MEPS, prioritizing Army applicants but seeing applicants from all services. As a result, increased productivity is expected for all services.
While technicians received hands-on training at the MEPS, the providers came to USMEPCOM HQ for two weeks of training on the workflow within the electronic health record, MHS GENESIS.
“We’re making sure they thoroughly understand the process, so MEPS aren’t having to train all 27 providers as well,” said Army Col. Richard Frear, USMEPCOM prescreen provider. “First, they were taught the mechanics, then we broke out into smaller groups to better understand what decisions to make. Everything from ‘Is this a disqualification? Is it a hold? Does it need to go to the waiver authority?’ They are taking their time and not being graded on speed, rather depth of knowledge. Understanding the effects of their decisions when charting applicants, and how that carries on down the line, is going to have a really big impact.”
The providers, who work for the Army in various medical roles, are not only contributing to sustaining the All-Volunteer Force, but gaining a deeper understanding of both their roles and the enlistment process.
“It’s been enlightening to see everything full circle,” said Army Capt. Trisha Adams, family nurse practitioner who will provide support at Jacksonville MEPS. “I handle primary care and sick call at Fort Leonard Wood, one of the basic training posts. Newly enlisted Soldiers are my population of patients. Now, I get to see medically where their careers start.”
Air Force Capt. Daniel Strickland, USMEPCOM deputy command surgeon recognized that it wasn’t an easy task to volunteer on such short notice. He said that Soldiers selflessly putting the mission before their own plans led to a strong group, creating a path so all the services could hopefully clear their processing backlogs by the end of the fiscal year.
“This is a big ask for the Army,” said Strickland. “We’re asking these individual providers for basically their entire summer on a short notice. We really are grateful to those who answered the call to come support us.”
USMEPCOM has continually worked to support its recruiting partners and stakeholders. Since the release of MHS GENESIS in March 2022, the command has stood up a Prescreen Support Coordination Center which has grown from a staff of nine to more than 20 personnel. Those on the PSCC can remotely review medical prescreens for all MEPS locations. The command also released updated guidance earlier this year, streamlining medical processing and providing more decision-making power to the providers. Currently, the command is examining the use of developing Artificial Intelligence (AI) to aid in their prescreen review process. To view stories of these recent initiatives and more, visit https://www.dvidshub.net/unit/USMEPCOM.