Becoming a Military Nurse

Military nursing shares many similarities to civilian nursing, in which the common goal is to treat patients and promote their well-being. Military nurses may work either at home or in foreign countries and in a variety of setting to include, but not limited to, military bases, military hospitals, and clinics. Military nurses may also work in hospitals or global response centers alongside deployed military personnel during natural disasters or times of war. Military nurses can work in potentially dangerous environments, like foreign war zones, and work under extremely stressful conditions. The benefits of becoming a Nurse in the military are numerous! You are provided with the tools you need to develop your career and continued training and leadership opportunities within your field. In addition to opportunities for continuing education and clinical specialization, you will receive low-cost or no-cost medical, dental and life insurance, generous retirement plan options, housing allowances, food stipends, and paid vacation earned at a rate of 2.5 days a month which you are eligible to take anytime.

In order to become a military nurse, you must earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an advanced nursing degree from an accredited school. Military nurses are commissioned officers; therefore, an associate degree will not be accepted. After graduating from nursing school, successfully passing the NCLEX would be the next step. Once you are licensed RN or advanced practice provider you can start your journey into the military with or without work experience. You will want to begin to talk to a Health Professions Recruiter, when you are ready to start this journey! Once you decide on a branch, make sure you meet all eligibility requirements determined by your recruiting branch, and complete the application packet. This process will take about a year from initial onset to final approval from the commissioning board. If you find out your application has been accepted the next major step is the completion of Commissioned Officer Training (COT). You are required to complete this 5-week commissioned officer course which helps you learn the ropes of military life as an Officer in the military. After successful completion of this course, you will graduate and go on to the duty station that you have been assigned to!

The main certifications you will need are a Bachelor’s degree and an active RN license from a non-compact state. You will also need to be certified in Basic Life Support (BLS).

If Acute Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certifications are required for a particular nursing specialty, you should also have these completed as well. Any other specific certifications relative to your nursing specialty are helpful but not required (i.e. CCRN).

There are many things to consider before making the choice to become a military nurse. There is a huge commitment involved with such a decision. You are not just a nurse, but you are also an active member of the Armed Forces. You will have to be deployed, many times for lengths varying 6 months to a year. Other things to consider before joining the military are your future plans. For example:

  • How will the military benefit you?
  • Do you have plans to further your education?
  • Are you able to live a structured life, taking orders from higher ranking individuals around you?
  • Are you able to be an active member of team and step up to leadership positions?

All these are great questions to think about and consider in your decision to join the military. The field of military nursing is fast-paced and can be emotionally, physically, and intellectually demanding. For the right candidate, it is an excellent opportunity for travel and personal and professional growth.

Jay Nichols known by her audience as Jay Quinn is a Critical Care Nurse in the US Air Force. Jay is currently an Acute Care NP student and also the owner and founder of Nurse Jay Boutique. Jay graduated from the University of South Carolina Mary Black School in Dec 2015 and started her nursing career as a new graduate on the Medical/Surgical ICU unit at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. 

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