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How To Become A Military Nurse
With a career in military nursing, you can serve your country while helping people in need. It's a career that shares many similarities to traditional nursing, but instead of treating civilians in hospitals and clinics across the US, you'll be working on soldiers in military hospitals around the world (including the US).
What is Military Nursing?
Military nurses work alongside soldiers in hospitals and global response centers. They are often called upon to work in high-risk environments and at very challenging times.
In war time, military nurses work in and around war zones worldwide and are a vital source of healthcare for wounded soldiers and civilians. In peacetime, they work with active-duty military personnel and veterans to provide ongoing patient care.
What Do Military Nurses Do?
Although a military nurse's workplace differs from that of civilian nurses, their duties are very similar.
- Treat wounded soldiers
- Assist with the family members of service members
- Assist in humanitarian relief efforts
- Prescribe and administer medications
- Work in pre-operative settings
- Establish military triage in war zones worldwide
- Provide vaccinations in developing countries
How to Become a Military Nurse
If you have decided that military nursing is right for you, follow these steps.
Earn Your Nursing Degree
The first step to becoming a military nurse is to acquire an advanced nursing degree. An associate nursing degree won't suffice here as military nurses are commissioned officers. You'll need to apply for a bachelor's degree, which can take up to 4 years to complete.
Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam
When you have attained your bachelor's degree, you must take and pass the NCLEX to get your nursing license. Once certified, you will become a registered nurse and can start thinking about specialties like military nursing.
Gain Nursing Experience or Enlist
At this point, you can go into any nursing career. If you determine that military nursing is still the right choice, you'll either need to join the military or gain civilian nursing experience.
In both cases, the goal is to improve your knowledge of nursing and build your skills.
Speak with a Recruiter
A recruiter can help you decide which branch of the military is right for you. There are specific eligibility requirements for all of them and the recruiter will check which of these requirements are met.
When you make your decision, your recruiter will work with you to finalize an application packet. It can take a year or so for this to complete and for approval to be granted by the commissioning board.
Finish an Officer Basic Leadership Course (BOLC)
Following selection, you must complete a commissioned officer course that will take anywhere from 5 to 10 weeks.
The course is designed to prepare you for military life and ensure that you're ready for this challenging nursing career.
When you have successfully completed the course, you will officially become a military nurse!
Are Military Nurses in Demand?
There are shortages across the healthcare sector, including in military nursing, Registered nurses are always in demand regardless of their specialty. In the event of a major conflict, that demand will increase.
Is Being a Military Nurse Difficult?
There is no such thing as an easy ride in the nursing profession, and military nursing is no exception. You'll have to work hard to make it to nursing school, study hard to pass your exams, and then go in search of a job, and that's just the start.
Being a military nurse means you will be working with sick, injured, and dying patients in some of the most demanding medical facilities around the world. In the event of a major conflict, you'll be thrust into the heart of the action and could be tasked with caring for soldiers sent to the frontlines.
Whether you're working in the air force, navy, army, or marine corps, this job is not for the faint of heart and requires fast thinking, a strong constitution, good leadership skills, and the ability to work well under pressure. You also need to be a fantastic nurse, although that goes without saying.
Benefits of Becoming a Military Nurse
The idea of being sent to foreign war zones might not seem very appealing, nor will the potential of bombs flying overhead, but there are many benefits to becoming a military nurse, including:
Student Loan Repayment Programs
Military nurses could have their student loans repaid via a number of loan repayment programs. There are specific requirements for all of these, but it's one of the best things about following a career in military nursing.
Military nurses generally have more vacation days than registered nurses, giving you more time to spend on vacation or at home with your family.
Military nurses played an important role in vaccinating against COVID-19 and so they have been in great demand in recent years. Global politics are also very unstable right now and so the United States needs skilled soldiers and nurses to help with any future conflicts.
Not only do military nurses earn a very respectable salary, but they can collect a range of bonuses which will depend on your specific branch and rank.
If you live off base, you could collect a housing allowance. If you choose to live on base, you won't have to worry about mortgage payments or rent.
As a military nurse, you can benefit from medical and dental insurance. These benefits are also offered to your family members, and if anything happens to you, they could collect a sizeable life insurance payment.
Travel and Experience
Military life is unlike anything else. It's scary, sure, but you'll travel the world, meet great people, and explore different cultures. It's not a vacation, far from it, but you'll work in places you never knew existed and in conditions you didn't think were possible. It will test your strength and constitution but it will also shape your personality and make you a better person for it.
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