While most nurses find work in hospitals and long-term care facilities, a significant number of nurses opt to do something different by working for the military. A career in military nursing may seem dangerous, but not all military nurses are stationed directly with deployed military units. In fact, most of them spend their time working in military hospitals and other government facilities, often getting to change locations every few years and, if desired, work around the world.
Becoming a Military Nurse
Becoming a military nurse typically requires a bachelor degree in nursing and being certified as a registered nurse (RN) before enlisting with a particular branch of service. You must also meet the physical requirements for your branch of service. Once enlisted, you attend a 10 to 14 week officer leadership course, which includes both physical and informational components. Nurses must make a three-year commitment to the U.S. Military.
An alternative to enlisting after you receive your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and become a certified RN is to enroll in an ROTC program. Through the ROTC program, you are able to take courses toward your degree in nursing while receiving tuition reimbursements and scholarships. In exchange for funding your education, you must make an eight year commitment to the U.S. Military.
As a military nurse, you have the opportunity to choose an area of care to specialize in. The specialty you choose will often determine the type of facility you work in and whether you work primarily with enlisted members of the military or with veterans and military families. Some of the areas available to specialize in include:
•Critical care nurses
In addition to the basic areas of specialty, once enlisted as a nurse in the military, you may have the option of obtaining an advanced degree and begin to work as a nurse practitioner, a certified anesthesiologist, a nurse midwife or a researcher.
One of the main reasons to consider a career in military nursing is the benefits that come with being a military nurse. Not only do you have the opportunity to serve your country and gain an inner sense of pride for doing something good, but the military is committed to treating its nurses well and providing them with incentives to keep them beyond their initial three-year commitment.
Initial Bonuses and Compensation
Like most nursing jobs, military nursing jobs pay competitively. In addition to a desirable salary, the military also typically offers enlistment bonuses and other financial incentives. Since nurses are required to have a BSN before enlisting, many enlistment packages contain tuition repayment packages.
Military nurses receive regular training to improve their nursing skills while working for the military. In addition, they receive special leadership and officer training that prepares them for managerial and other leadership positions. Through the GI Bill and other financial assistance programs, nurses who want to get an advanced degree, such as a master’s in nursing or a doctorate may be able to do so with the military covering the entire tab.
Most importantly, the experience gained through a career as a military nurse cannot be gained in any other career. Should you choose not to make military nursing a career, you may find you are in high-demand when it comes to obtaining a nursing job in a hospital or other healthcare facility. The leadership training received as a military nurse will prepare you to move directly into a position of management in a nursing job outside of the military. Traits such as dedication, honesty and respect, which were stressed in the military, will set you apart from other candidates in the regular nursing job market.