U.S. Navy doctor, Cmdr. Terrence Dwyer and Navy nurse Lt. Cmdr. Vicki Edgar monitor the vital signs of a rescued fisherman pulled from the ocean after nearly 20 hours after his vessel capsized.
Photo credit:U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class J. Maurer.
Working as a military nurse exposes you to a vast amount of opportunities and challenges. You'll care for servicemembers and their families in unique situations all around the world, while holding rank of an Officer. A military nurse may join the Army, Navy or Air Force. Military nurses work in the same medical areas as civilian nurses, in addition to practicing military duties such as performing airborne medical help for wounded soldiers. They enjoy their exciting career as they explore new regions of the United States and the globe, all while serving their country. Military nurses can work on military bases, ships at sea or overseas in war zones.
Military nurses have the choice to work full-time in active duty or part-time in the Reserves or Guard. They work in fast-paced and high-stress environments as many of the situations they work in are emergent and life-threatening. Because of these types of working conditions, they develop top-notch nursing skills, which gives them excellent chances to advance their career. As a military nurse you'll be able to specialize in pediatrics, psychiatry and trauma. Some other specialties military nurses work in are critical care, midwifery, emergency and neonatal nursing. Military nurses gain invaluable leadership skills, which gives them opportunities for advanced leadership nursing careers.
Characteristic of a Military Nurse:
- Ability to multi task quickly.
- Ability to work under pressure.
- Make life saving decisions quickly.
- Excellent communication skills.
- Strong stamina and endurance.
- Ability to work long hour with little sleep.
- Easily adapt to change.
There are two ways for becoming a military nurse: through direct commission or ROTC commission:
Through direct commission
An individual must already be a registered nurse or attend a nursing program approved by their state board of nursing and pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX). The military prefers nurses to have a BSN degree. The Army reserves accepts nurses with an Associates of Science degree, but they must have a BSN degree by the time they’re ready for promotion as Captain. After receiving an RN license, a nurse would apply to one of the military branches which hire nurses and be sworn in as an officer.
Reserves Officer Training Corps (ROTC)ROTC programs assists students with college tuition and pays a small stipend while students are in school. Students take military history and leadership classes while in ROTC, in addition to attending ROTC summer camp for the four years they are in college. After completing a BSN nursing program and passing the NCLEX exam, a nurse is commissioned through the military branch they enrolled in. The following branches have ROTC programs for nursing students:
- Army ROTC:
- Train students to become managers.
- Tuition assistance with college.
- Students learn invaluable skills.
- Army ROTC:
- Navy ROTC:
- Students train to become a commissioned officers.
- Students are eligible for scholarships or tuition assistance.
- Students Gain management experience.
- Navy ROTC:
- Air Force:
- Tuition assistance for college.
- Train to become an Air Force Officer.
- Air Force:
Nurses have the opportunity to advance their career while in the military to a Master’s level to become Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Nurse Specialist or Nurse Anesthetists. They’ll receive increased compensation and higher bonuses with advanced degrees.
Job Description & Duties
- Treat wounded soldiers.
- Treat Service Members families.
- Set up military triages in war zones.
- Treat patients worldwide.
- Work in Military hospitals.
- Work in Military clinics.
- Military nurses also take part in humanitarian relief efforts providing emergency care to victims of natural disasters.
- Provide vaccinations to children in developing countries.
Job Outlook and Salary
The job outlook for military nurses is good and they’re compensated according to grade and rank the nurse holds. In addition to great salaries, military nurses receive special pay and bonuses for many types of activities. Military nurses also have opportunities to have their student loans repaid by government programs. Many branches also offer a sign-on or ascension bonuses of $20,000 to $30,000; and yearly bonuses according to type of degree a nurse holds.
Some other benefits military nurses receive are low-cost or free health care insurance, 401K programs, housing stipends and hazard pay when assigned to combat zones. They receive 30 days of vacation per year and they can retire after 20 years of service and receive a pension.
References and Further Reading
- Army Nurses: http://www.goarmy.com/amedd/nurse.html
- Navy Reserve Nurse: http://www.navyreserve.com/careers/healthcare/nursing/
- Air Force Nursing: http://www.afrotc.com/careers/professional-programs/nursing/