Joining the military and getting pigeon-holed

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    More and more, I am thinking of joining the military as a nurse. But I had a question about joining while I'm still a fresh new grad or joining when I have more experience under my belt. I want to work in the ICU, and it's very unlikely I will start out in the ICU as a new grad. Most likely, I would only be able to transition to the ICU after 1-2 years of med-surg experience, at the minimum. If I chose the military route after getting med-surg experience, would I be pigeon-holed in med-surg even as a military nurse? Or would I be allowed to transition to ICU in the military, with no prior ICU experience?

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  2. 10 Comments...

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    I asked my recruiter the same question. My recruiter is a nurse recruiter for the Navy, so this pertains to only the Navy. He said if I want to go into ICU, ER, or Trauma, I must enter within Medical Surgical. I can eventually take some specialty classes to do ICU, Trauma, etc. However, they do not need nor have any positions open for these units right now. The desired positions for the Navy are: med-surge, pre-op/post-op, and psych. Again, this is only what my Navy recruiter told me. I would talk to a HC recruiter in whatever branch you are interested in going into. I was told by AF that ICU/ER needs 2 years experience to enter into those units.
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    You can commission in the Army with your 8A identifier if you meet their criteria: 2 years civilian critical care experience, etc...
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    I would like to think that if I or a family member were in a specialty unit like an ICU, then the nurse taking care of me/them would have hopefully had some med-surg experience - at least 1 year, then passed a ICU course. I never felt that a new graduate should transition into the ICU. Too much to learn about yourself as a nurse before you jump into that arena. Hone your assessment and patient skills.....you'll need them in ICU.
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    Quote from funky monkey
    I would like to think that if I or a family member were in a specialty unit like an ICU, then the nurse taking care of me/them would have hopefully had some med-surg experience - at least 1 year, then passed a ICU course. I never felt that a new graduate should transition into the ICU. Too much to learn about yourself as a nurse before you jump into that arena. Hone your assessment and patient skills.....you'll need them in ICU.
    This is off topic and has been rehashed and beaten to death elsewhere on this site and others.
    navyman7 likes this.
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    To say you could get pigeoned holed could happen in the civilian or military world. A lot of times it is about timing and luck; When intern programs open up for ICU, you will have to compete for the position in both worlds.
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    As mentioned, work in critical care in the civilian world and put it on your resume to join the military. You'll likely get a critical care slot if you want one. I walked off of the street into a military critical care job by doing just that.
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    I'm active duty AF in the ICU. I never did a day of med-surg nursing in my 16 years as an RN. I went straight into ER then took a class and a preceptorship to transition up to ICU after 9 years ER. Everyone of us is designed differently and has different skills. Personally, med-surg would kill me. I don't know how med-surg nurses keep 6 patients straight and safe - kudos to them! Don't be too quick to judge other people's career paths.

    Joining as a med-surg nurse does NOT pigeon hole you in the military. The AF and the army both have an amazing critical care fellowship that you can apply for after 1-2 years as a med-surg nurse. It is an amazing fellowship that has no comparison in the civilian sector. The AF one is 1 year long, and I believe the army one is 6 months.

    also, as a military nurse, you will get much better preceptorship and mentoring than anything I saw in my 14 years of civilian work. AF goes through the Nurse Transition Program after COT for new grad RN's. They don't have quite the same eat their young mentality as civilians (in my opinion).
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    Id rather be pigeon-holed, than Corn-holed, which could happen if you wait 2 years to join.
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    I came into the Army with my 8A identifier (critical care) b/c I had worked a few years in a Civ ICU. As a new grad I went to a unit that was hurting in staffing so bad they were taking new grads in the ICU.

    If you don't want to work med surg at all ever then perhaps you should go the civ route and find a place that will take a new grad in the ICU. Otherwise you can get a course garantee in your contract when you join so after a year I think you will go to the course.

    Time tends to go by fast while your in service. There is nothing wrong with doing a year or so on med surg then going to the course in the army. Some people just want to have everything NOW these days, and there is nothing wrong with that if thats what you want to do. Just don't hate on an organization that really doesnt want to take resources and put them into an individual that has just graduated from school and never touched a patient as a RN. That person may change their mind and not want to do ICU or they may just fail as a nurse, or just don't get it fast enough etc. Hell you dont even know if you like the military yet.

    whatever you choose good luck. My advice would be if you can join up for 3 yrs and see if you 1. like being in military 2. want to go to icu 3. then make it happen.

    its competitive these days I don't even know if they are direct commissioning new grads... when you have experienced nurses out there that want to join these days.


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