Military nurses come from diverse communities, backgrounds, nationalities, religions, and races. Men and women serve; many are married and some have children. They may be assigned to medical facilities throughout the world, from outpatient clinics to medical/trauma centers with several hundred beds.
In peacetime, military nurses care for active-duty personnel and their dependents, military retirees and their dependents, and occasionally, civilian emergency patients. In wartime, military nurses provide medical support around the globe, often in austere environments. They also may care for our foreign allies' military personnel and work with health care professionals from allied countries.
What's in it for you?
Civilian and military nursing have many similarities, but military nursing offers some unique advantages. For example, if you were to join up, you'd:
- be commissioned as an officer
- work in a collegial, professional, and collaborative environment with physicians and other health care professionals
- be able to pursue professional military education designed to hone nursing and leadership skills.
On the clinical side, you'd have the opportunity to use cutting-edge technology and techniques in both medical treatment facilities and temporary facilities in the field. You'd also have the option of working in many practice settings.
On the personal side, you'd have the chance to see the world. Military nurses may move often.
Could you be called into harm's way? Of course. Some military nurses will have relatively uneventful careers; others will face danger. But this challenge is the essence of military nursing.
For more on nursing opportunities in the U.S. Navy, Army, or Air Force, see Take a Closer Look.
NAVY NURSE CORPS
With full-service hospitals and other medical facilities around the world and on the seas, the Navy offers opportunities to work everywhere, from family practice to advanced surgery and highly specialized fields such as aerospace medicine. You'd get generous pay and benefits, a choice of assignments (within certain limits; the first assignment is usually in a U.S. Naval hospital, but most Nurse Corps officers will have overseas assignments), the chance to travel (possibly serving with the marines or the fleet), and the chance to pursue a graduate degree in a specialty area.
Requirements for joining the Navy Nurse Corps include being between the ages of 20 and 34, being able to pass the Navy's physical standards, and having completed certain minimum levels of training and education.
Benefits include being able to practice around the world, free and low-cost travel for you and your family, plus 30 days' paid vacation annually.
Part-time opportunities with the Naval Reserve Nurse Corps span the complete range of nursing practice, including clinical areas such as medical, surgical, cardiac, OR, and patient-care management. Specialty areas where staff is most needed are anesthesia, OR, medical/surgical, and critical care nursing. Requirements vary somewhat from those of the regular Navy Nurse Corps; for example, you must be at least 21 years old and be eligible for a special security clearance.
For more information, visit the Navy's Web sites at http://www.navy.com/traincareer/nurse.jsp and http://www.navy-reserve-jobs.com/opportunities.html.
ARMY NURSE CORPS
As an RN in the U.S. Army or Army Reserve, you'd have opportunities that civilian nurses don't get—such as commanding an entire hospital. You'd train and work in some of the best medical facilities in the world and may have the chance to engage in humanitarian missions here or overseas.
Requirements for either active or reserve duty include being between 21 and 47 years old. To qualify for the Army Nurse Corps, you need a BSN from an accredited program; for Army Reserve, a BSN, an associate degree, or a diploma from an accredited school of nursing is required, but the BSN is preferred.
Benefits of full-time active duty include competitive salary, with specialty pay up to $15,000 a year, 30 days' paid vacation annually, a $5,000 sign-on bonus, no-cost or low-cost medical and dental care for you and your family, low-cost life insurance, and on-post child-care facilities. Benefits of part-time work in the Army Reserves include possibly qualifying for a stipend toward a master's degree in critical care nursing or nursing anesthesia or up to $50,000 to pay back outstanding educational loans (available to nurses qualified in critical care or nursing anesthesia). You'd also get low-cost life and dental insurance.
For more information, visit the Army Nurse Corps' Web site at http://healthcare.goarmy.com/nurse.
An integral part of the Air Force health care team, nurses provide direct patient care and work with top physicians. You may work as a clinical nurse, OR nurse, flight nurse, or nurse-anesthetist.
Among the benefits: 30 days' paid vacation annually, free travel on available Air Force aircraft, free on-base housing or tax-free off-base housing allowances, tuition assistance, comprehensive medical and dental coverage, and low-cost life insurance for you and your family.
The Air Force Reserves offers various medical courses, including Flight Nursing School. You might find yourself involved in medical evacuation or a member of an aircraft crew involved in worldwide humanitarian missions.
For more information about nursing in the Air Force, visit http://www.airforce.com or http://www.afreserve.com/nurses.asp.
Take a closer look
The U.S. Navy, Army, and Air Force offer both active duty (full-time) and reserve duty (part-time) opportunities for nurses. The basic requirements for any branch state that you:
- have a current license to practice nursing
- be a BSN graduate of an accredited school of nursing to qualify for active duty (BSN is preferred but not required in the reserves)
- be a U.S. citizen (although foreign nationals who are legally residing in the United States may be eligible).
If you have a BSN, you'd join as an officer. Generally, you'd get solid compensation and benefits, the opportunity to travel, and more autonomy in clinical practice than in civilian jobs. You'd also have the chance to pursue further education, as all branches of the military are noted for their support of learning. In exchange, you'd work long hours, have to pass physical fitness exams, and never know for sure where you might be stationed next during your minimum 3-year stint. Take a look at a few details, then visit the Web sites to learn more.