New Army Nurse Corps officers: first things first!

by Pixie.RN 29,168 Views | 48 Comments Senior Moderator

While there are many things you need to do at your first duty station, some are essential to furthering your career in the Army Nurse Corps. Don't let vital steps get lost in the quagmire -- you risk missing out on promotions!

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    New Army Nurse Corps officers:  first things first!

    I am speaking fondly to my direct commission brethren (and sistren?) who don't know their ORB from their iPERMS. Some of this will seem obvious to prior service folks, or people who have been in for a while ... as one of the Majors/PAs who works in my ER remarked recently, "Everyone knows that they need to get their transcripts uploaded to iPERMS when they come into the Army!" What? Everyone? I'm part of that "everyone," and I didn't know. I think they should have "Board File 101" at BOLC, especially for those who come in at higher ranks with constructive credit and who might be going to a competitive board sooner than we realize!

    Yes, it has happened: I am up for promotion from 1LT to CPT. Our selection board convened last week, so it was a bit of a scramble over the last couple of months to make sure that everything was ship-shape (pardon the Navy term, hahaha). So let me share what I had to do to get ready for the board. These are things you should do sooner, rather than later, to avoid any last minute scrambles (like me). Do NOT jeopardize your opportunity for promotion!

    First, get a DA photo taken when you become a 1LT. It doesn't matter as much going from 2LT to 1LT -- we all attain 1LT by virtue of time/continuing to exist and breathe, this is not a competitive promotion. But with the Army Nurse Corps being overstrength, you can bet that later boards are going to be competitive. It used to be that the CPT boards were pretty much automatic for nurses, but let me tell you: those days are gone! I am hearing that only 40 to 50 percent of the 500-whatever 1LT RNs up for promotion will get picked up for CPT. I have no idea if those numbers will be what really occurs, but make sure you do what you can to be competitive.

    So, back to the DA photo. Don't wait on getting this done. For those of us who are direct commission, our DA photos are pretty simple because our dress uniforms (ASUs) are relatively undecorated. I am wearing my three little "yay I'm in the Army" ribbons in my DA photo. Make sure you take someone with you when you get your DA photo, and by "someone" I mean a person who knows about the proper appearance of the uniform. This can be a fellow officer or an NCO. It is often worth it to look for a tailor/dry cleaner/alterations shop near post where they are ASU experts. One of my coworkers took my ASUs to a dry cleaner/alterations shop where a retired sergeant major assembles ASUs correctly, and even does a fantastic job without you standing there with them on. It was something like $30, but we all know that getting promoted is priceless! Bear in mind that the people sitting on the selection board aren't necessarily nurses, or even medical people. They are typically "real Army," and you have one chance to impress them with your DA photo.

    Appointments for DA photos are generally made online through the Army's Visual Information Ordering System (VIOS). Just Google "VIOS Army" and you'll find the site. The staff at my DA photo site was fantastic -- the photographer did some test shots with and without my glasses so I could see which way I wanted to go (I went without -- there was too much glare off of my lenses), and another staff member helped me straighten my nameplate just a tiny, tiny bit ... but sometimes that "tiny bit" can make all the difference in the world!

    Not to harp on it (much), but just to give you a last bit of information about how important the DA photo was: for the last CPT board, no one without a DA photo was promoted. As our board file experts reminded us, "get your DA photo -- don't roll the dice!"

    Next are obtaining your transcripts for your BSN or MSN. These must be sent from your school directly to the Army's Human Resource Command (HRC) at Ft. Knox, KY. This is something that should be done as soon as you are settled in at your first duty station! It takes time for documents to get scanned into the Army's online system, the interactive Personnel Electronic Records Management System (iPERMS), and if you are waiting for something in iPERMS to hit your board file, it takes time for that as well. There is information on HRC's website about where to send transcripts, so make sure that you get that done as soon as possible. This is something that is too easy to forget! I know I did, and then I didn't realize that I couldn't send official copies myself, and then my school accidentally sent the next official copy to me instead of HRC. It got to the point where I begged them to overnight my official transcript to HRC (which they did) so that I could ensure that my board file wouldn't be completely hosed. I mean, can you imagine knocking yourself out of the running for promotion due to something you should have done months before? Yes, it would suck out loud; therefore I am sharing this information with you so that you won't have palpitations like I did.

    Your board file is based on your Officer Record Brief, or ORB. This ORB is basically a snapshot of your professional Army career, from awards to duty stations and positions and all the Army courses you've taken. It also includes any specialty certification information (for example, my ORB shows that I have my Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) certification, and also shows constructive credit for the ER nurse course because I came in with my M5 identifier as an ER nurse). Think of your ORB as a table of contents, and there should be certain items to back up your ORB entries. Things that you'll want to have scanned and uploaded to iPERMS would be specialty certifications, Army course completion certificates, and any awards that appear on your ORB. Items (except transcripts) can usually be locally scanned in by your S1 (usually someone up in your HR department). For example, I recently completed the Joint Forces Combat Trauma Management Course (JFCTMC), and I had my certificate of completion scanned in so that this course could be added to my ORB and the cert could be included as backup to that ORB entry.

    If you haven't figured this out yet, save copies of all course completion certificates and any paperwork for awards! My awesome roommate at BOLC was so squared away, she had an "I Love Me" book with all these things in sheet protectors. Do this! You never know when a piece of paper may get lost, and the only thing allowing you to claim that you earned an award is your own documentation. Save copies of your OERs, too.

    So here's my board file experience. I received email notification that my board file was open for my review online via HRC's record section, and I needed to review my board file by a certain date to ensure it was ready for the selection board. Okay, great ... busy busy busy in the ER, so I ignored most of this but knew the first thing I'd need would be a DA photo. About a month later I finally had some time while TDY to peruse the numerous email reminders I'd since received about my board file, so I scheduled my DA photo and made a mental note to get a copy of my BSN transcripts. I had the official copy sent to my house because I apparently didn't learn how to read. In the meantime I got my DA photo done, and was pretty happy with how it looked. (Bear in mind that depending on local policies, you may need a letter from your company commander if you decide that a photo reshoot is needed after you've left the photo studio and accepted your DA photo in the Department of the Army Photograph Management Information System (DAPMIS) online.)

    I realized my error with the transcripts and ordered another copy to be sent from my school to HRC. I received those at my house. Oops! And when you realize there's mail time, scan time for iPERMS, time for iPERMS to feed into your board file, and a 5-7 day processing time from the school itself to send the transcripts in the first place, I started to panic a couple of weeks before I needed to sign off on my board file online. (I know, my procrastination led to this panic, but I truly didn't think through what would be involved in getting my transcripts in!) Luckily there are amazing folks at my former school and at HRC who will help those of us who can be time-management-impaired while not doing patient care. I managed to get my transcripts in with 10 days to spare. Too close for comfort!

    So the final elements of my board file include my DA photo, my ORB, my DA form 1059 (academic evaluation) from BOLC, two OERs, my BSN transcripts, and my course completion cert for JFCTMS. I just renewed my CEN (can't believe it's been four years already!), and unfortunately my renewal certificate didn't make it through the scan-iPERMS-board file cycle before I wanted to sign off on and certify my board file, so that won't be included (though it is listed on my ORB). Our board files close to us by a certain day prior to the selection board actually convening, and they need to be signed off before that for the board to consider us.

    So at the end of the day, the lesson is this: get your DA photo taken when you make 1LT and get your transcripts sent to HRC! Do not wait to do these things, or you risk pre-board palpitations and panic. And best of luck to all my fellow 1LTs out there who are up for promotion!
    Last edit by Pixie.RN on Sep 16, '14
    ktunney, corigurule, Enthused RN, and 7 others like this.
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  3. About Pixie.RN

    Pixie.RN: a short green-eyed redhead, very tattooed, Army ER nurse, no-longer-new-ish CPT/66HM5. Avid reader, addicted to good shoes, allnurses, and her Android 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: 12,319 Likes: 6,880; Learn more about Pixie.RN by visiting their allnursesPage

    48 Comments so far...

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    Hey Lunah, what role do you think PT scores, play in the selection process? Being "real army" reviewers on the board tend to love the number 300 lol
    miasmom likes this.
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    Good Luck, Lunah! Looking forward a "wetting down" party--or whatever the Army calls them!
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    In addition do they take into account weapons scores?

    As a Army Nurse have you had any opportunity to go to any service schools (Air Assault, Airborne, EFMB)?
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    Quote from nursespouse
    Hey Lunah, what role do you think PT scores, play in the selection process? Being "real army" reviewers on the board tend to love the number 300 lol
    I don't believe my actual PT score shows up anywhere -- the only thing on my OER (my evaluation, part of the board file) is pass/fail along with height and weight. While actual PT scores are important to a lot of people, it comes down to pass/fail for officers when it comes to this sort of thing, I suppose.
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    Quote from ncox1
    In addition do they take into account weapons scores?

    As a Army Nurse have you had any opportunity to go to any service schools (Air Assault, Airborne, EFMB)?
    Weapons scores are not anywhere in my board file, as far as I can see. Hmmmm.

    I have not had the opportunity to go to any service schools.
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    More have you seen the opportunity presented to junior officers for service schools (i.e., is it encouraged?) Pretty sure the weapons are there just as an ERB but as you stated it doesn't really factor into promotion, tracking.

    Thanks!
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    The board does not view or have the option of viewing the actual PT score or weapons qualification score.
    Pixie.RN and ncox1 like this.
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    Hi Lunah,

    Do they give extra points if you have certain badges like the Expert Field Medical badge? And out of curiosity would you consider testing for that badge?
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    Quote from Enthused_Nurse2B
    Do they give extra points if you have certain badges like the Expert Field Medical badge? And out of curiosity would you consider testing for that badge?
    I have no idea, but with the prestige that comes with an EFMB, it can only make someone stand out at the board.

    I am not nearly enough of a PT stud to attempt the EFMB, so no.


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