In the Army, people are our No. 1 priority. The Army exists to deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars, yet every aspect remains a human endeavor. It is soldiers, America’s sons and daughters, who take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, who stand ready and courageously on point for the nation. It is soldiers who are willing to fight and lay down their lives to defend their family, friends and country. Soldiering is more than a job; it is a privilege to serve others and a purpose greater than self. As leaders, it is soldiers and the Army’s mission we exist to serve.
The profession of medicine exists within the profession of arms to save lives and conserve fighting strength. It is a sacred honor to deliver state-of-the-art medical care anytime, anywhere, to enhance the readiness of the soldier. Whether at the point of injury, in the back of a medevac helicopter, in the aid station or at a military treatment facility, soldiers deserve the best care in the world as they carry out their duty in defense of the nation.
In Army medicine, everything starts with a soldier-centered perspective, as soldiers are the most valuable asset. The type of customer service delivered in medicine is analogous to any enterprise that serves people and consists of three major components: timeliness, high quality and care.
Time is an incredibly precious resource and is especially important in the military. The mission and people’s lives depend on timeliness. Trust is built on the ability to be present and follow through for others in a timely manner. The combat medic at the point of injury on the battlefield must be half a heartbeat away, as another soldier’s life may depend on immediate treatment without delay. When a traumatic injury occurs in combat, evacuating a soldier to a surgical capability within the “golden hour” improves survival rates.
When soldiers are ill or injured, their ability to receive timely access to care inspires confidence, enhances healing and increases return-to-duty rates. For example, when a soldier tears an ACL, timely access to imaging with an X-ray, MRI and referral to an orthopedic surgeon is critical to the initiation of treatment and the recovery process.
Timely delivery of medical care is not only important to soldiers, but also is critical to commanders and to soldiers’ teammates. This unique “team” aspect of Army medicine distinguishes it from care delivery in the civilian setting. In the Army, being on point for others and the mission, and delivering timely care as close to the point of injury as possible can be the difference between winning and losing, life or death.
Excellence in the fundamentals and, as the Ranger Creed states, giving “100% and then some” matters in the profession of arms, where losing is not an option. People want high quality when it comes to any service where outcomes matter, but especially in health care, where lives are at stake. High-quality care means safe, equitable, timely, effective, efficient and people- or patient-centered service. Medicine is a profession that requires continuous refinement, innovation, integrity in performance, diligence and humility, as there is a human life at the center of every aspect of operations.
Whether developing the next vaccine or improving a process, high quality must always be the goal. Human error can occur in any high-reliability organization through fatigue, complacency, skipping steps in procedures or lack of communication, and result in devastating outcomes. In the Army, we have a duty to deliver state-of-the-art care on every platform at every echelon as the mission, the team and soldiers deserve the best outcomes.
Perhaps the most important aspect of customer service is care. Army leaders must care for soldiers and observe the sacred trust that soldiers’ parents have given through full devotion to their loved ones. Soldiers must be trained, equipped, given purpose and a sense of belonging, treated with dignity and respect.
Combat medics are known as “angels of mercy” because they care for wounded soldiers in the worst possible conditions, even risking their own lives to save others. Medical providers and leaders have no idea what else is going on with a person until we listen, show empathy and care about helping others the best we can.
It is easy to cast judgment, turn people away or give minimal effort, but that is not what the Army is about. The Warrior Ethos states that we will “never leave a fallen comrade,” and the Army Values inspire us to treat others the way we would want to be treated.
There is nothing nobler than to serve others and make a difference in people’s lives, and it changes the experience across the organization when we care about people. In the profession of arms and profession of medicine, we must treat every person with dignity, respect and care.
The Army is an incredible profession that demands sacrifice and devotion. At the heart of the profession of arms is a soldier willing to serve, fight and die for their country. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another.
It is an honor to serve those who serve and deliver timely, high-quality care anytime, anywhere, and to inspire confidence so soldiers can do their duty in defense of the nation. Customer service is always part of delivering excellence to people. When leaders deliver the best for each other, soldiers and commanders, our readiness mission grows stronger.
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Capt. Kinjal Bhalodia is a medical operations officer in the Division Surgeon Office, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Previously, she served as the fire support officer in the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
Lt. Col. Amy Thompson is the division surgeon for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell. Previously, she served at the Defense Health Agency as a liaison to the Joint Staff Surgeon. She has two combat deployments.
Lt. Col. Joseph Galvin is chief of shoulder and elbow surgery and associate program director for the Orthopedic Surgery Residency, Madigan Army Medical Center, Washington. He has three combat deployments, most recently in 2020 as an orthopedic surgeon with the 911th Golden Hour Offset Surgical Team in support of joint special operations forces in Afghanistan.