Hurry Up and Wait!

by Pixie.RN Asst. Admin

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The second installment in my journey to Army Nursing... I leave for Texas the day after tomorrow! Wow, time is flying!

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    After I became an RN, I remember looking at the Army website, just musing ... but I saw that I needed a BSN for active duty. I had started an RN-to-BSN program with Chamberlain College of Nursing, but even with only 10 courses required (I had 206 credits and three Associates degrees by this point in my life, my "Masters in Indecision"), the end of the BSN program seemed far away. I mentally filed the idea away for later.

    Everyone who knows me knows that I am never content to just coast; I always need to be doing something, to have a goal. Whenever I accomplish something, the response from friends and family is "Great. What is next?" I decided I'd get my Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN), so I did that in May 2009, after being an RN for about 10 months. Turns out that CEN is the "gold standard" as far as getting a special identifier as an ER nurse in the Army, so it definitely came in handy later.

    December 2009 rolled around, and it dawned on me that I was about six months from my BSN. I resurrected the idea of joining the military, and discussed it with Michael, my long-suffering spouse. Being former active duty Army himself (Infantry/11B, AKA "11 Bullet-catcher" or "11 Bang-Bang"), he was thrilled with the idea. He is a tattoo artist, and being near the military is just about an ideal setting for him. So I set about contacting a recruiter.

    When I finally got in touch with a healthcare recruiter (note to anyone interested in military nursing: do not bother with the local strip-mall recruiters, you need to speak with a healthcare recruiter!), she and I set up a date and time to meet that was about four weeks out. We met over coffee in January 2010, and began what can only be described as the dance of paperwork. She emailed me the US Army Medical Department (AMEDD) Applicant Worksheet, which was 49 pages in length ... fun! I also had to fill out a tattoo waiver worksheet; being married to a tattoo artist, I do have quite a few tattoos, go figure. (Too many for the Air Force or Navy, actually. Haha.) I sent copies of my RN license, my CEN cert, and other assorted documentation. Also, because I was seeking a special identifier as an ER nurse, I had to have documentation from my clin spec, as well as a letter verifying my hours working in an ER. My nurse manager/clin spec was awesome, writing letters and filling out paperwork for me.

    But the bad news: just a few days after meeting with my recruiter, she was notified that recruiting for RNs was closed for the remainder of the fiscal year. For those of you unfamiliar with the government and military, the fiscal year runs from 1 October to 30 September every year. Because the Army was at capacity for nurses, there wouldn’t even be another selection board until November 2010, 11 months down the road and a month into the new fiscal year. A disappointment, but not a dealbreaker by any means.

    So we continued pushing on ... submitted all my paperwork in May, had my physical exam at Walter Reed in June. I had to submit extra paperwork for the physical because I had LASIK done in 2007, and they wanted to see some post-surgical notes. Physical was approved in August. Just for grins (okay, and the bolus of cash from my employer), I wrote and passed the Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse (CPEN) exam in August. I figured another board cert could only make me stand out, right? We had submitted my paperwork/CV several times for the ER nurse special identifier, but it was just "pending" for months on end. My recruiter was told that she was not to bother the individual doing the CV review because he was new, and thus slow. A frustrating wait! I was overqualified by Army standards for the special identifier, especially with TWO ER nursing certs now, so what was the problem? All through Autumn I was in a holding pattern.

    Army RNs are designated as 66H, med/surg nurses. Identifiers are added for speciality areas: for example, 66H8A is ICU, 66HM5 for ER. That "Mike 5" was very important to me! Finally, in October, as the selection board in November loomed ever closer, my recruiter contacted the CV review person, who -- surprise, surprise! --had no knowledge of my special identifier application or paperwork. My recruiter resubmitted the paperwork, and voila! Within a week, my M5 was approved. Hooray! I was so concerned that my packet would go to the selection board with no identifier, causing issues down the road.

    In November I tried to stay busy to keep my mind off of the upcoming selection board. I attended the annual Virginia EMS Symposium, getting the remainder of my CEUs to recertify my NREMT-P (paramedic) again. (My first love will always be EMS, and I am going to hold on to that cert as long as I can!)

    November 16, the first day of the selection board, came and went. My recruiter (oh how I adore her, she is the absolute best!) emailed me on November 19 to let me know that my packet had been boarded, i.e., reviewed by the selection board, and that we should have results in another couple of weeks, maybe three. Heck, after all this time, what’s another few weeks, right??

    There were several of us applicants frequenting the allnurses Government/Military Nursing forum, providing support to each other as we waited, and information as we heard anything. On December 1, I experienced a brief power outage in the morning at my house due to some stormy weather. As soon as the power came back on and I visited the Gov/Mil forum, I saw the news: the lists were out! OMG! Why hadn't my recruiter called? Was it bad news? Should I call her?? I couldn't breathe, my heart was pounding! I called her and got voicemail. Arrghh! And then ... the phone rang. Turns out my recruiter had called my home phone about 30 minutes earlier, but the power was out and she couldn’t get through. In any case, she said, "I have great news! Congratulations, you’ve been selected!" I think I screamed. I know my husband grabbed me in a big hug and lifted me up off the ground. I was elated. Active duty, 66HM5!

    As the next few months unfolded, I reminded myself (more than once) that being selected was 99.9% of the battle ...

    Next blog: Even More Hurry Up and Wait!
    Last edit by Pixie.RN on Mar 18, '11
    Ereu711, nursemami4, anie10, and 16 others like this.
  2. Read more articles from Pixie.RN

  3. About Pixie.RN

    LunahRN: a short green-eyed redhead, very tattooed, a volunteer Paramedic, ER RN, new 2LT/66HM5. Avid reader, addicted to good shoes, allnurses, and her smartphone.

    Pixie.RN joined Aug '05 - from 'everywhere and nowhere - global nomad'. Age: 42 Pixie.RN has 'NREMT-P: 11, RN: 6' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'ED/Trauma, 66HM5 (Army)'. Posts: 12,158 Likes: 6,707; Learn more about Pixie.RN by visiting their allnursesPage


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    2 Comments so far...

  4. 1
    I was hoping you would give a play by play on your experience. The "March BOLC" thread is what lead me to Allnurses from my own Army Nurse info search. I will be eager to see what happens in BOLC. As a fellow ER nurse and Army vet, I salute you! Good luck Lt.
    Pixie.RN likes this.
  5. 0
    Yep, that's the plan! I'm getting ready to post the third blog entry in just a minute, and I leave for BOLC in the morning.

    And thank you!!


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