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Fly high in Air Force nursing

Flori, Lori E. RN, MN, BS

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doi: 10.1097/01.NURSE.0000343085.67665.c0
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IF YOU'RE LOOKING for adventure, rewarding challenges, and travel opportunities, you may want to consider a nursing career in the U.S. Air Force. In this article, I'll tell you what a career as an Air Force nurse can offer you, whether you're a new nurse or an experienced nurse looking for change.

Travel with benefits

While many of your civilian counterparts are stuck in routine jobs, you can be off exploring the world. As an Air Force nurse, you'll enjoy a multitude of benefits, such as 30 days of paid vacation, paid healthcare insurance, and a retirement plan, plus some less tangible benefits. For example, Air Force nurses are highly esteemed members of the healthcare team. Not only will you be a respected member of an elite healthcare team, but you'll be recognized as an expert in your area of nursing practice.

As an Air Force nurse, you'll be an officer who's expected to set an example for others to emulate. Besides helping you to become an outstanding nurse, the Air Force will turn you into a leader who provides direction to all members of the healthcare team.

As a nurse entering the Air Force, you'll undergo a 10-week nurse transition training program similar to a civilian residency. During this training program, you'll be paired with a preceptor whose sole purpose is to help smooth the integration process. If you're a new graduate, your preceptor will help with your transition into the nursing profession, as well as into a leadership position as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.

On completion of the nurse transition program, you'll enter into one of two initial practice settings, medical-surgical or obstetrics-gynecology. Then once you've mastered basic nursing knowledge, you'll have the opportunity to experience other areas.

Practice settings, which span the full spectrum of healthcare, include outpatient clinics, flight nursing, educational avenues, administration, inpatient settings, and even executive leadership positions, as you advance in your career. As an Air Force nurse, you'll touch the lives of our American military forces, their family members, and others in need around the world.

No matter where you're stationed, you'll continue to learn. Every base has a multitude of continuing-education opportunities, including advanced trauma training, wound care, and end-of-life care. The Air Force also supports and sponsors ongoing professional development and education through postgraduate degree programs and advanced licensure.

Another opportunity available to you is training for U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Medical Support, which entails setting up, stocking, and running remote hospitals or medical provisions in austere locations that may be in high-operations areas, including combat zones and places hit by natural disasters.

A personal spin

Now I'd like to tell you about my experience. I've been a nurse in the Air Force for 2 years, and I absolutely love my job. Currently stationed in Alaska, I work as an ED nurse at Elmendorf Air Force base. Our base is a joint military hospital, which means that we're also a Veterans Affairs (VA) facility. Our patient population ranges from active duty members of the Air Force, Army, and Coast Guard to international military members. We also serve military dependents, retirees, and VA patients.

Being stationed in a rural area can be both challenging and frustrating. Alaska is truly the last frontier. The population is diverse and living conditions range from suburban ease to wilderness survival. Providing healthcare can be extremely difficult because most facilities in Alaska aren't well equipped to handle long-term patients who need rehabilitation. I must formulate adaptive treatment plans that encompass patient advocacy, diversity, and resourcefulness.

The world awaits

Don't like the cold? If practicing in Alaska doesn't appeal to you, Air Force nursing offers a world of other practice locations and leadership opportunities. As an Air Force nurse, you can relocate every 3 to 4 years to assignments in the United States and abroad, or sometimes stay longer at one location.

The world and many diverse cultures await you. Your quest for adventure will take you places you never dreamed of and the experiences, travel, training, and friendships you'll have throughout your career will provide you with a lifetime of memories, as well as personal and professional satisfaction. For more information, visit

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