A Day in the Life: Athletic Trainer Practicing in a Military Employment Setting

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December 12, 2018

By Devon Serrano, DAT, LAT, ATC

The military is a growing employment setting for Athletic Trainers (ATs). ATs practicing in this employment setting are tasked with caring for members of the United States Military from basic training to retirement. ATs can be found on military installations, military colleges and everywhere in between.

As an AT practicing in a military employment setting, I was responsible for the care of 1,350 basic training candidates and as many as 100 cadre members for a battalion for the United States Army, specifically the Infantry. My position was considered a civilian contractor position, meaning I was not enlisted in the military but was a civilian contracted to provide athletic training healthcare. To provide greater insight, I outline a typical schedule to provide “a day in the life” look at practicing as an AT in a military employment setting.

Civilian Contractor AT Schedule

0435: Arrive at the security gate and receive clearance to continue onto the base (“post”)

0445: Arrive at my battalion athletic training facility and set up for treatments

0500: Open the athletic training facility for patient treatment time

  • Patients come in and sign the appropriate sign-in sheet
    • Patients in need of blister coverage are seen first and sent back out to training
    • New patients fill out a tablet with information needed for tracking and notes
    • Returning patients start on their rehabilitation exercises or bring copies of their paperwork from the other clinics that they may have seen
  • New patients are evaluated individually, and a decision is made about their participation status
    • RTD: Return to Full Duty
    • Profile: Limitations and the date the patient must return to training
      • Depending on the pathology and evaluation, patients may be referred to Troop Medical Clinic (TMC) or sick call for general medical conditions or physical therapy for advanced musculoskeletal radiographic evaluation.
  • Returning patients are re-evaluated by the ATs
    • If they were on profile from the AT and the evaluation shows they can return to training, the patient can receive an RTD
    • If they were on profile from the AT and the evaluation shows they would benefit from a continuation of limitations, the patient can extend their profile
    • If they were on profile from the AT and the evaluation shows they need further evaluation, the patient can receive a referral to physical therapy
    • If they were on profile from TMC, physical therapy or the hospital, the patient must return to that clinic to receive an RTD

0500-0730: Patients are seen by the ATs assigned to that battalion

0730-0900: Documentation (notes and tracking) and cadre treatment time (per request)

0900-1300: Training events and battalion responsibilities

  • Basic training for the army involves events where trainees are pushed to their physical and mental limits. ATs go out to events as allowed by their contracts and the battalion or brigade. Some events include the obstacle course, confidence (high robes) course, Eagle Tower (40-foot repelling wall), the CS Gas Chamber (tear gas) and ruck marches (marches with weighted packs). Out in the field, ATs serve as first responders for trainees and cadre
  • ATs also give briefings to cadre and trainees to help them successfully get through the cycle and make it to graduation. Briefings include how to utilize an AT, nutrition, hydration and foam rolling/stretching

In my experience, ATs in the military employment setting are honored with the opportunity to serve their country in a unique manner. From screenings to morning treatments to events, ATs are able to provide services to serve members of the United States Military.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our service members and their families for their dedication and sacrifice.



About the Author

Devon serrano

Devon Serrano is the Director of Sports Medicine at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. She received her bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science from State University of New York at Cortland in May 2012. At that time, she also received her emergency medical technician certification. She also became a member of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity as well as SUNY’s emergency medical services. Serrano earned her master’s degree in Clinical Athletic Training from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania in December 2014. She also performed 2 clinical rotations at Bucknell University and served as the chapter advisor for Alpha Phi Omega at Bloomsburg. Since graduating, Serrano has gained experience as an intern Athletic Trainer (AT) at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. She has also served as the contract AT with Women’s Volleyball at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and an AT for the Warrior Athletic Training Program at Fort Benning through Auburn University. Serrano completed her doctorate in Athletic Training from Indiana State University in May 2017. In her spare time, Serrano can be found volunteering on medical staffs for events ranging from the New York City Marathon to roller derby. Currently, her primary research interest focuses on equestrian athletes. She enjoys life through food, running, movies or spending time with friends and family.

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