Very well....to answer your original question, I was a nurse before I joined the Navy. I can't speak for life in the Airforce or the Army because I've only run into Airforce/Army types occasionally thru different tri-service functions.
As best I can, generally speaking, the major difference in military nursing and civilian nursing is economic. From the civilian aspect.....you will be paid more....but your patient load is high. However you will have some diagnostic ancillary services available such as cath labs, CT machines, ultrasound and access to a whole host of specialty doctors that you won't have in the military. Your facility will also be fairly updated with relatively modern equipment and depending on where you work, cutting edge developments may be going on there......LiCox monitors, fluid ventilation, stuff like that. If you work in the ICU, your patients really will be trainwrecks. If you work in the ER, you may see a lot more trauma than you will in the CONUS military facilities. Navy medicine is very conservative....the Army and especially the Airforce, less so.
Remember that the military has to spend part of their budgets, not on medical supplies, but on bombs and planes and podiums for mobile command centers and such therefore the medical facilities are slower to update things than the civilian side. Before the airforce pipes up, yes, Wolfert (Wolpert?) Hall in San Antonio is pretty modern with decent equipment.
On the military side, you have the rank structure (which you are familiar with) and a system for regular promotion thru that structure. You get no pay for overtime, tho and you will put hours over and above your 40/week just like your civilian counterparts....you just don't get paid for them. In order to progress past O4 at least in the navy, you need to get a master's degree, too.
In the military, you have medics and corpsmen who have, at least some degree of medical training, although how well they perform at work depends on you and you will be sent the corpsmen fresh from school. They will still initially require a lot of training and supervision. In the civilian world, you'll have PCA's or techs who probably have less training and can't give meds or start IV's and dissappear every 5 mins to go smoke and can't lift heavy patients because of their bad backs and call into work a lot.
In the military, your corpsman will try all same things...but they've got to get a chit first
That being said, I worked on a pulmo-tele ward when I was a civvie, my patient ratio was 4-6 tele patients with at least 3 being total care types. A lot of times, I had no tech to help me. I worked my butt off just to provide the basics of care.
In the military, I've worked in on a gen surg ward and the ER. My surgical ward patient ratio was 9 during the day with upt to 12 at night with usually 2 corpsman. Many nights I relied on them to hang my abx, give PO meds and check v/s. My ER ratio is currently 6 to 9 patients of all types (cardiac, peds, medical, trauma etc). In the military you will get no hand-holding. You must be ready to hit the ground running because you will be thrown to the wolves. Course, they did that to me when I was a civvie so maybe it's just nursing.
You will also get deployed in the military and I know 2 navy nurses who were wounded in battle on the mad dash to Baghdad. So you can get hurt. Deployment terms are growing ever longer....and you will be sent to one of the hottest, most worthless, smelly, ****** places on earth. The airforce had airconditioning, cable, and hot-tubs in their tents (that's what I heard!!!!)
Lastly, in military nursing, there are nurses who've become officers and there are officers who've become nurses. The first variety are far more valuable than the last. If you're going to nursing school because you think you'd look good in khacki, don't do it. If you're going to school because you like taking care of ppl and you think blood-n-guts is cool then welcome aboard. This can be a dilemma for priors who've become nurse corps officers and then discover that it's not about getting saluted and that they have to work just as hard as when they were enlisted.
On the other hand....your patients by and large can't sue you. You do get to do cool things like ride in helicopters and humvees and carry a 9 MM. You also can get an incredible amt of training for free from the military. I've got a string of certs now, half a page long, that would have cost me thousands of dollars if I was a civilian. The benefits if you can stick it out 20 years are pretty good and you become experts at getting free MAC flights to different places. 30 days paid vacation (leave) ain't bad either.
Absolute last word of advice....if you're considering nursing.....DO NOT GO BACK IN WITHOUT A BSN!!!!! Why, if you were enlisted, do you still want to be enlisted again? Go get your BSN and go back in as an officer.
I hope that helps.....PM me for any specific questions.
You're an army of one when you cross over into the blue and accelerate your life (grin)