For those who want to serve their country as well as care for patients, choosing to become a military nurse may be a satisfying and rewarding career path. The tradition of military nursing runs deep. George Washington himself petitioned Congress for the funds to employ nurses in the revolutionary army during the founding of the United States.
Aside from the feeling of personal fulfillment that comes with service, there are certain tangible benefits to pursuing a career as a military nurse. According to RN Careers, there are opportunities for student loan repayment and a benefits package that includes free healthcare, a housing allowance and a pension. The student loan repayment is of particular interest.
From College to Commission
Military nurses are commissioned officers and must have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree,
according to Nurse.com. Taking and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become a Registered Nurse (RN) is a step that nurses take after they complete their Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). You can enlist in the military with or without nursing experience. This means you may either seek civilian employment as a nurse before enlisting or head directly to a recruiter for the branch that most interests you.
After you've determined that you meet all of the eligibility requirements for the branch of the armed forces you wish to join, your recruiter will assist you in completing your application packet. The application process can take a year to complete, from beginning to the final review and approval from the officer commissioning board.
Following approval by the officer commissioning board, you must complete a commissioned officer course. This training runs five to 10 weeks, encompassing an introduction to military life, leadership skills and some physical conditioning. Once you complete these steps, you will be an officer and military nurse in your branch of service.
Reporting for Duty
According to Top Nursing, military nurses serve in the Army, Army National Guard, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. The Marine Corps utilizes members of the Navy Nurse Corps. Military nurses also serve in the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). They may be in combat zones, triaging the wounded. In developing countries, they may be vaccinating children. On military bases, they care for service members and their families. Military nurses may be called upon to care for those who have suffered through a natural disaster. Wherever the military goes, at home and abroad, military nurses go with them.
Military nurses perform the same roles in the military that they do in civilian practice along with the added responsibilities and needs of patients in a military context. EveryNurse explains that for nurses working in a combat zone, this can mean treating severe injuries, including loss of limb and gunshot wounds. Confronting these life-threatening emergencies in a dire situation requires grace under pressure as well as lifesaving skills.
As stressful as it can be, the life of a military nurse can be enormously rewarding. The opportunity to see the world, the camaraderie that develops between service members and the discipline and determination instilled can make you a well-rounded professional capable of rising to any challenge.
Taking the First Steps
Our society honors those who serve their country – and for good reason. Their dedication to preserve our freedom, even as they place their own lives at risk, is admirable. Military nurses are uniquely equipped to serve their country and their fellow service members, both at home and abroad. Whether working in a VA hospital stateside, dispensing humanitarian aid where it's needed or tending to the wounded in the heat of combat, military nurses represent the best of us as a nation. It's a calling not many answer, but for those who do, taking the steps to become a military nurse has never been easier.
For associate-prepared RNs looking to make the transition to a career as a military nurse, the online RN to BSN program at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) can be an important first step toward an officer commission. For existing veterans, active duty members of the armed forces and their eligible dependents, NKU offers military and veteran resources such as help with admission, sorting out your VA benefits and finding job opportunities. Whatever your educational goals, NKU is ready to help you pursue them.
Learn more about NKU's online RN to BSN program.
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