The Making of a Navy Doc: Lt. Bernhardson

By Lt. Andrew Bernhardson, orthopaedics resident, Naval Medical Center San Diego

Lt. Andrew Bernhardson, orthopaedics resident (left), attending to a medical procedure. (Photo provided by Lt. Bernhardson)
Lt. Andrew Bernhardson, orthopaedics resident (left), attending to a medical procedure. (Photo provided by Lt. Bernhardson.)

Graduate Medical Education in Navy Medicine is multi-faceted, providing education to many specialties. As part of Navy Medical Education and Training month this month, Navy medical personnel wrote to their future selves in order to show what it took to get to the current points in their careers.

You may not realize this now, but the next two years will definitely shape what kind of physician you will become whether you want it to or not. You won’t have that senior resident anymore or staff over your shoulder guiding you, or telling you what to do. Embrace your independence, but also respect what it means to your patients. The buck stops with you.

When you first get to your command, be humble and do a lot more listening than talking, but realize that you are on the commanding officer’s staff. Your opinion now carries weight. You may only be outranked by three people in your entire battalion. This is where the OFFICER part comes in, not being only a physician. You have the expectations of being both and being professional in both avenues.

Remember what Lt. Col. Benson told you at the Academy, “When there is a doubt, there is no doubt.” This will be applied to everything you do both in medicine and in professional military matters large and small. “Do I need a haircut?” (If you’re asking yourself this question you already know the answer). “I wonder what happened to Lance Corporal so-and-so’s lab’s?” (Check).

No one is there to babysit you anymore and these things matter not only to care for your patients, but also what the other officers in your command think about you. How the other officers view you will impact your time, if you’re the guy they seek out or the one they avoid. Here’s a short list of things to remember to do:

  1. Workout: this is one time in your life it not only makes you feel better, gets you in better shape, but also you can be an example for your corpsmen, plus NO ONE likes an overweight, out-of-shape physician.
  2. Take time to enjoy your life: Residency will always be waiting, so take your leave when you can.
  3. Deploy: Get a little salt on your shoulders. Afghanistan was a definite opportunity personally and professionally and though there are bad things you’ll never forget, enjoy the company of outstanding people there who are as dedicated as you are to the overall mission.
  4. Be a leader: You are now in charge of those corpsmen you saw running around the floor taking vital signs, except now you have to teach them how to do parts of your job since you can’t always be there. When they call you on the radio from a base two hours away by road and 20 minutes by helicopter, you can trust their exam and what they’re telling you. Because your word will determine if they launch a helicopter to go pick that patient up and bring them back to base.

You’re in the real world and real military now, take on the mantle of responsibility and grow.

Salty Lt. Bernhardson

Lt. Andrew Bernhardson (far right) in Forward Operating Base Edinburgh, Afghanistan. (Photo provided by Lt. Bernhardson.)
Lt. Andrew Bernhardson (far right) and other personnel at Forward Operating Base Edinburgh, Afghanistan. (Photo provided by Lt. Bernhardson.)