Imagine you’re deployed with the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN
68), operating somewhere in a vast ocean, with no shore based
medical centers around for hundreds of miles. You are carrying out
your normal duties of the day. Suddenly your breathing becomes
labored. You take a second to sit down and not before long there is
a pain in your chest that begins to creep down your arm as
unconsciousness starts to creep up to your head.
know it you are laying in the main battle dressing station of the
ship’s medical clinic. The senior medical officer, a medically
qualified commander, is standing over you diagnosing your symptoms
and calculating all possible solutions to alleviate them and get you
back to health.
After a few minutes, you hear a request for
someone to help him. There is nothing he can do until this person
arrives. Would you be surprised if it was a second class petty
officer that he was asking for?
“I am what you could consider
the messenger,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Robert D. Viloria.
“The doctors know how to treat symptoms by coming up with multiple
options. I help them choose the best option based on what medicine
we have in stock.”
August 23, 2017 - U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Robert
D. Viloria, from Milwaukee, prepares medication for a patient in the
pharmacy aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), in the
Arabian Gulf. Nimitz is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of
operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. While in this
region, the ship and strike group are conducting maritime security
operations to reassure allies and partners, preserve freedom of
navigation, and maintain the free flow of commerce. (U.S. Navy photo
by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Holly L. Herline)
A native of Milwaukee, Viloria is Nimitz’ sole pharmacy
technician. This makes him one of the few people aboard that
can make the call on what medications patients are treated
As the working stock custodian for the ship, Viloria is in
charge of the ordering, controlling and dispensing of
medications. He is the expert on what the ship has in stock
and what it can be used for.
“At a hospital you have
an actual pharmacist and multiple pharmacy technicians, here
on the ship it is just me alone,” said Viloria. “I am
designated by the commanding officer to dispense the working
stock of medicine onboard. I run the pharmacy by myself.”
After completing Basic Hospital Corpsman ‘A’ School,
Viloria was selected for follow on instruction. He spent six
months following his four months of basic medical training
in San Antonio obtaining the 8482 Navy Enlisted
Classification which qualified him to dispense medication as
a pharmacy technician.
The school covers a rundown of
all the systems in the body and how certain medications
affect and help those systems. Students learn from a range
of topics from the skeletal system and what pain medication
will help it, to what medications best treat eyes, ears,
nose and mouth complications.
“We learn what certain
drugs are, what they do and what they are best used for,”
At some point during their time on
Nimitz, every Sailor will likely benefit from the training
Viloria has received. From sick call worthy symptoms to
surgeries at sea, medicine plays a large part in making and
keeping Sailors healthy.
“My average day starts out
with sick call,” said Viloria. “The providers will screen
the patients and either see them and give them a
prescription that I will later fill or they will send them
straight to me for over-the-counter medicine.”
the counter medications include any medications that you can
buy at a store. These are medications that Sailors can go
straight to Viloria for. In those cases, he will write down
their symptoms, ask them about their allergies and then
administer a dose of medicine that will usually last them
for 2-3 days.
“We don’t have a lot of room on the
ship and it’s easy to run out of what you do manage to pack,
especially on deployment,” said Personnel Specialist 3rd
Class John Duya, from San Diego. “When it comes to the
everyday medicine for headaches and the common cold it’s
nice to know that someone on the ship can help provide us
Viloria spends a majority of his day
making himself available to fill prescriptions. These come
from the providers aboard that include the ship’s three
flight surgeons, senior medical officer, family
practitioner, surgeon, physician assistant and three
independent duty corpsman.
Viloria provides all
types of medications, ranging from blood pressure or
cholesterol medication to Motrin and muscle relaxers.
Being the sole pharmacy technician on the ship means
that if a Sailor is receiving any sort of medicine,
regardless of the reason, he has had something to do with
“Sometimes I can even have intensive care unit
patients and I have to make up the antibiotics doses that we
give them,” said Viloria. “For some patients, I have to tend
to them with IV bags that push the medicine that they need
through to them.”
Viloria not only administers the
stock, but is also responsible for ordering and ensuring the
ship has the proper amount and type of medications it needs.
“I have to know which medications we need and which ones
we are allowed to have,” said Viloria. “I do that using an
Authorized Medical Allowance List, which is a list that
dictates what drugs the ship can and cannot carry.”
Once Viloria knows what the ship is allowed to carry a
certain medication, he is responsible for managing and
Because the daily health of roughly
5,000 Sailors over a six-month period is not something that
is easily anticipated, ordering the appropriate medications
can be a stressful job.
“Sometimes our formulary only
calls for two of something and so I follow that and it ends
up getting used way quicker than anticipated,” said Viloria.
“On deployment I have to make a lot of predictions and put
in a big order based on how we have consumed certain
medications in the past while also accounting for deployment
The ship can expect to receive a
shipment of medications roughly every two months. Viloria
must plan accordingly.
“I know what drugs we commonly
use and which ones we go through the quickest,” said Viloria.
“I note what medications we have that often come close to
expiring and which ones we often have no stock of. That
method gave me a little better idea of how to prepare for
our current deployment.”
In preparation for
deployment, Viloria also facilitated the use of the
deployment prescription program (DPP).
DPP can save
the ship a lot of money. It allowed Sailors with long term
and consistent prescriptions to fill out and turn in paper
work that provided them with a six-month supply of their
medication to cover for the duration of their deployment.
“Essentially we use the DPP program to outsource
that supply of medication to other Navy medicine entities,”
said Viloria. “It frees up my ability to order and provide
the ship with the medicine that we need to stay healthy and
treat the unexpected conditions that they don’t already have
Without Viloria and his six
months of training, there would be a lack of expertise on
the stocking, handling and administering of the medications
that are vital to keeping Nimitz’ Sailors healthy. There
would likely be a noticeable effect to the crew if there was
not someone who knew about the proper and safe
administration of the right type and even mixture of
medications to provide Sailors.
Nimitz is deployed
in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of
Operation Inherent Resolve. While in this region, the ship
and strike group are conducting maritime security operations
to reassure allies and partners, preserve freedom of
navigation, and maintain the free flow of commerce.
By U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jose Hernandez
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