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The lifestyle of an Army Psychiatrist

CPT Rachel Sullivan shares her thoughts on how the Army helped her become a mom and a psychiatrist.

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The lifestyle of an Army Psychiatrist

CPT Rachel Sullivan shares her thoughts on how the Army helped her become a mom and a psychiatrist.

My name is Rachel Sullivan and I’m a Captain in the Army. My job is Army Psychiatrist and I’m currently stationed at Walter Reed Bethesda which is the main hospital for the Army. I joined the Military in order to pay for Medical School and also to try out the lifestyle because it seemed really interesting. It’s a different world in the medical community in the military than it is in the civilian sector so when I started thinking about going into medicine my first thoughts were it was a very frustrating industry basically the HMO management, and the frustrations of being told how to practice medicine by somebody who doesn’t have a degree in medicine because they flat-out won’t pay for something really frustrated me. The more I found out about the military system the more I realized that wasn’t going to be an issue. Basically we don’t have anyone looking over our shoulder saying you can’t do that because it’s too expensive or you can’t do that because the patient doesn’t meet the threshold for when we would authorize that kind of treatment. If I decide it’s warranted then I’ll do it. For my family it’s been really ideal because a lot of the problem with our current medical education system at least in this country is there’s constant delayed gratification. So my story is that I got married the week after I graduated from college and I wanted to start having kids. My husband also wanted to get an advanced degree so we were looking at the idea of maybe a couple of hundred thousand dollars of worth debt between the two of us and not really being able to afford starting our family otherwise. The military enabled me to have my kids when I wanted to and now I have two daughters who are 5 and 7 years old. What I’m doing currently now, I’m finishing up my training. I’m a psychiatry resident. One of the chief’s this year at Walter Reed and I have been picked up for a child psychiatry fellowship at Tripler, which is the hospital at Hawaii – nice work if you can get it. And that’s where I’m headed. My family is very excited to go live on the island and we’re getting ready to move. I’d just like anyone out there considering this to do the research into what it will mean for you and consider it because so far I have no regrets. So a typical day for me is just like any other psychiatry resident. We have rotations just like our civilian counterparts. Some of them are at the military hospitals and some of them are somewhere else so the idea is that our training needs to be just as comprehensive as anyone else’s with the addition training of knowing how to deal with the military population area as well. So in the DC area I go to the children’s hospital I go to Inova Fairfax, it just depends on the day and the rotation. But really we’re doing the exact same work as the civilian doctors, we just do it in uniform and sometimes with a subset of the population that no one else gets to see.
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