Healthcare is a complex beast in the modern era. Most patients don't just see one doctor, but instead receive treatment from a team of numerous specialized doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and technicians.
That means breaking into the field at entry-level can be daunting, but the plethora of enlisted healthcare careers available in the Air Force provides high school graduates with many opportunities to receive training, certification, and experience that make them viable candidates for meaningful, well-paying jobs in the healthcare field.
Airmen in the medical service tech field are the Air Force's equivalent of Army medics or Navy hospital corpsmen.
Although the Navy corpsman rating covers a lot of specializations that the Air Force treats as separate career fields (like dentistry or biomedical equipment), Air Force medics still receive many similar opportunities to train, specialize, and branch out.
Beginning with general patient care and administrative duties, they may receive training to fill more complex roles such as independent duty, hemodialysis, or licensed practical nurse.
Although this role is more of an electronics technician than a patient care specialist, the biomedical equipment technician's (BMET) place on this list is still well-deserved. They play the crucial role of keeping the medical equipment up to date and functioning accurately.
After their 41 weeks of training, Air Force BMETs are expected to repair a wide variety of equipment, from basic information technology devices to complex surgical and diagnostic imaging machines. Training includes troubleshooting and repairs at the circuit board level.
Cardiopulmonary (CP) lab techs spend almost a year of their first enlistment going to school at the Medical Education and Training Campus.
CP techs assist with a wide variety of procedures and therapies, including electrocardiograms, angioplasty and stent placement, and respiratory therapies such as intubation and mechanical ventilation.
This job, much like its civilian counterpart, is responsible for operating and maintaining the various high-tech machines that allow a doctor to see inside a patient.
They generally begin working as X-ray technicians, but with training and experience, opportunities in ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, and nuclear medicine are also available to these techs.
Diet therapists handle day-to-day menu planning for patients in the Air Force healthcare system, but they also make rounds and coordinate with the staff on the floor to make sure that special needs—diets for surgery patients, those with diabetes, and so on—are addressed thoroughly and safely.
These specialists are the "scrub techs" of the Air Force's surgery team. That's not to imply that the job itself is simple.
Vital to keep the patient safe and free from infection—and keeping the surgeon happy, as well—scrub techs maintain a sterile environment during surgery, maintain equipment, anticipate equipment needs, and keep a strict count of every piece of equipment used on (or in) the patient.
Scrub techs may also specialize in areas such as urology and orthopedic surgery.