Quick Tip for ANYONE considering nursing in the military

  1. 17
    Folks, a quick tip:

    To pursue commissioning opportunities as a nurse in any - and I do mean ANY - branch of the US Armed Forces, please be sure you are talking to a Health Professions Accessions recruiter or whatever that branch's equivalent is. The folks you commonly meet in the the recruitment offices in shopping malls, plazas, and at high schools are ENLISTED accessions recruiters and generally know nothing about officer recruitment, much less health professions recruitment. You'll find a few officer recruiters that way, but most of them are strictly for enlisteds.

    I'm only pointing this out because I've seen several posts that are leading me to believe folks are talking to enlisted recruiters only.

    Another commissioning source may be ROTC; you can look up ROTC detachments through local universities and colleges. Any ROTC Det cadre member at any school in the country would be able to explain available cadet opportunities for nurse candidates for their particular service, if any exist.

    For the Guard and Reserve, be sure the recruiter realizes you are ultimately interested in a commission as an RN by the most direct route possible - their funding and processes are a bit different from the active duty side of the house.

    Just a quick tip. I don't want to see anyone get blindsided into enlisting when that's not really what they want to do. Once you're enlisted, becoming an officer is highly competitive and sometimes downright impossible. You want to go for the commission and the RN from the start if at all possible.

    There's absolutely nothing wrong with being enlisted - I'M prior enlisted, my father was career Navy, my oldest brother is retired Navy, and my other brother is retired Army - that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is if you want to be an RN from the first moment you raise your right hand, you have to go for a commission and not for an enlistment.

    Just my
    Last edit by carolinapooh on Sep 9, '09
    SoldierNurse22, Amagoo, dmpearce, and 14 others like this.
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  3. 42 Comments so far...

  4. 2
    I couldn't have said it better myself.

    There is generally no such thing as an enlisted military RN. You would be a "Hospital Corpsman who happens to have a civilian RN qualification". This is basically a ridiculous situation. If you enlist, you may be forced to work below your capacity as an RN, meaning as a CNA, medic (or EMT) or as an LPN/LVN.

    On the other hand, you may wish to enlist for personal reasons. Maybe you have an ADN and can't get a commission until you get your BSN or MSN, and you want to take advantage of the military's tuition assistance programs to help pay for that goal. Maybe you have decided that you want to be a SEAL or SWCC special operations medic (not a corpsman but sort of a paramedic with special combat medical procedures and medevac skills), and it is actually pretty common for people in this "world" to have degrees but still enlist anyway- they are doing it for reasons other than the paycheck or the title; their training makes sure that only the people who want to do their mostly miserable jobs actually want to do those jobs (not just be able to say that they do that job). Maybe you are young and just interested in the adventure of military life, can't wait to do it, and figure you'll get on with your nursing career later on down the line. These or any combinations of these might lead you to enlist. One other positive rationale for this would be that you want to be a big fish in a small pond- to enter in as a Hospital Corpsman with RN license would automatically make you a pretty big fish.

    The negative: Careful consideration should be made before enlisting. Enlisted people are treated differently. Most of them will not have the level of education that you have as an ADN or higher. 90% of enlistees won't have lots of free time for school and might end up too tired to focus on finishing any serious school classes at all (esp. those in shift work, overseas, etc.). Enlisted recruiters may tell you otherwise, but they cannot really guarantee what will happen once you enlist. Also, if you are older, you are going to find yourself of being in the RIDICULOUS position of being an E-1 or E-3 at the age of 28 or whatever, being bossed around by 19 and 20 year olds, treated like a numbskull, insulted, etc. Your fellow enlisted might be jealous of your high falootin' qualifications and college degree and treat you badly for it. Did I mention that your pay will be below poverty level for the first few years? Really, really think this one over before enlisting after RN training.
    Last edit by mmm333 on Oct 21, '09 : Reason: cleanup
    ElizEub:) and athena55 like this.
  5. 3
    I was enlisted for 5 years and once I got my RN, called the Army nurse Corps main number and they connected me with a recruiter. So much easier than a mall.

    The transition was simple and mindless but the cultural change was vastly different.

    Remember you NEVER "enlist" as a nurse; you choose to accept and are "commissioned." Commissioned means you pay for your food, your uniforms and you have lots of out of pocket expenses. It's not like enlisted at all. You're expected to lead and if anyone does anything, you're at fault but the problem is many units have no one to lead; they're all officers who still don't know how to salute or march so leading like that will get you no respect (sometimes blatantly so). Going longer term if at all possible makes the transition better (longer training courses, volunteer for "extended duty" or go full time otherwise the idle time will be crazymaking).

    I went no where except to a nearby army base when I was commissioned-they even let my brother come and swear me in (he was eligible).

    Once sworn at I self scheduled for my basic course.

    If you're 28 or older and do enlist, you'd be a PFC by the end of basic training (if you had NO education) and move up rapidly. If you're an RN, you'd start higher if enlisted is your thing. You never see oldsters at the bottom. One of the 3 promoting requirements they consider is age. If someone told me I "HAD" to be deployed tomorrow, I'd take an enlisted LPN position (I'm an RN). This way uncle sam would have all the out of pocket expenses and people would give me respect immediately. Stripes stick together; they're the backbone of the military (as they say).

    Serving both, my stripes days were my most rewarding. Money wise, it's a wash with all the officer expenses (depending on rank). Guage both carefully!
    Last edit by CASTLEGATES on Oct 23, '09
    heydelilah, ElizEub:), and mmm333 like this.
  6. 0
    Thanks, good insight right from the horse's mouth.
  7. 1
    So good it gets a sticky!
    mmm333 likes this.
  8. 1
    A couple aspects I forgot to mention: ADN grads find themselves considering enlisting in some cases since the military doesn't take RNs as officers with less than BSN or MSN. I would be really interested to know what the military does with enlisted RNs- whether it sees these people as responsible enough to provide care at the RN level or whether it requires them to work under the supervision of an officer. Does anyone out there know anything about this? Another thing to consider is this: as an enlisted person the military can tell you what your job is and where it is. They can put you wherever they want and they may choose not to recognize you as an RN. After all, your job description does not include nursing- it is usually clearly defined as "medic", "corpsman", etc. Basically UAPs or EMTs/ paras, possibly LVN or CNA. They may choose to capitalize on your capabilities, but then again they don't have to. If you get hired as a nurse officer, at least you know you'll be utilized as a nurse.
    ElizEub:) likes this.
  9. 2
    An RN enlisted in the military is treated according to their enlisted rank and scope of practice as they are not recognized as an RN. They don't work under the supervision of an officer as an RN - they don't work as an RN at all because they are not employed as RNs. They work in whatever capacity permitted by their enlisted job description (AFSC/MOS/whatever their service calls it).

    It would be like a CNA at a civilian hospital who's hired as a CNA but has an RN license - that person can't work or practice within an RN's scope. Same with the RN who's a paramedic.
    ElizEub:) and mmm333 like this.
  10. 2
    Thanks pooh. And there you have it folks. If you want to go military, make sure you are talking to the right people and have a clear idea of where you intend to go. Don't believe that as an enlisted person you will have time to pursue college half time or whatever, because you'd be too busy in most cases and possibly deployed. If you are not interested in the job description they offer you, don't rationalize it. If you need more school join the reserves (especially if you have a BA degree) until you can complete your BSN- and look into the other programs designed for RNs such as NCP etc. Unfortunately the military branches don't take BA+RN applicants (at least not right now) and requires a BSN or above (this seems completely appropriate given that you are dealing with specific communities, engaging many practice areas, taking on leadership roles much sooner, etc). So just get into a BSN program if you want to go military. Thanks guys for clarifying things.
    ElizEub:) and Elisa G. like this.
  11. 0
    Quote from mmm333
    I couldn't have said it better myself.

    There is generally no such thing as an enlisted military RN. You would be a "Hospital Corpsman who happens to have a civilian RN qualification". This is basically a ridiculous situation. If you enlist, you may be forced to work below your capacity as an RN, meaning as a CNA, medic (or EMT) or as an LPN/LVN.

    On the other hand, you may wish to enlist for personal reasons. Maybe you have an ADN and can't get a commission until you get your BSN or MSN, and you want to take advantage of the military's tuition assistance programs to help pay for that goal. Maybe you have decided that you want to be a SEAL or SWCC special operations medic (not a corpsman but sort of a paramedic with special combat medical procedures and medevac skills), and it is actually pretty common for people in this "world" to have degrees but still enlist anyway- they are doing it for reasons other than the paycheck or the title; their training makes sure that only the people who want to do their mostly miserable jobs actually want to do those jobs (not just be able to say that they do that job). Maybe you are young and just interested in the adventure of military life, can't wait to do it, and figure you'll get on with your nursing career later on down the line. These or any combinations of these might lead you to enlist. One other positive rationale for this would be that you want to be a big fish in a small pond- to enter in as a Hospital Corpsman with RN license would automatically make you a pretty big fish.

    The negative: Careful consideration should be made before enlisting. Enlisted people are treated differently. Most of them will not have the level of education that you have as an ADN or higher. 90% of enlistees won't have lots of free time for school and might end up too tired to focus on finishing any serious school classes at all (esp. those in shift work, overseas, etc.). Enlisted recruiters may tell you otherwise, but they cannot really guarantee what will happen once you enlist. Also, if you are older, you are going to find yourself of being in the RIDICULOUS position of being an E-1 or E-3 at the age of 28 or whatever, being bossed around by 19 and 20 year olds, treated like a numbskull, insulted, etc. Your fellow enlisted might be jealous of your high falootin' qualifications and college degree and treat you badly for it. Did I mention that your pay will be below poverty level for the first few years? Really, really think this one over before enlisting after RN training.
    Just to clarify, if you are enlisting in the navy nurse corps with a BSN degree, will you be enlisted as an officer and doing more RN-type work or does the above statement regarding doing CNA work and being bossed around by 19-20 year olds apply? Won't you be in the same shoes as those 19/20 yr olds atleast since you would enter as an officer? T

    Thanks for your time
  12. 2
    I don't remember who said it, but in the CA National Guard, you can commission with ADN. However, you will not promote past O2 (1st Lieutenant) without the BSN or MSN.

    An interesting path someone may want to consider (takes much longer, but check out the reasoning) -

    I enlisted as an E4 (Specialist) Paralegal in the Army National Guard. I have a BA in Legal Studies. I could have become an officer at the very start (Officer Candidate School) after basic training. There were pros and cons to going this route:
    Pros:
    1.) at the time I enlisted, there were NO bonuses for officers (I received $10K by enlisting first).
    2.) Now I am an NCO, there is a certain understanding that comes along with being an NCO, especially when you are leading enlisted Soldiers (Airmen, Sailors, Marines).
    3.) When I commission, I will have the "E" time, so I will get paid slightly more than a nurse that direct commissions with no or less than 6 years of prior enlisted service.
    4.) It is pretty difficult to get into BSN programs (or any nursing program for that matter). It is a little quicker to get into an ADN program. And as I stated previously, the Guard will allow you to commission with the ADN and let you have a few more years to get that BSN or MSN. There are tons of RN-BSN or RN-MSN (for those with a bachelors in a different field) online. This will allow a new RN to work in their field (on the civilian side) while gaining the leadership/military experience as an O1 or O2 and while working on the subsequent degrees.

    Con: This takes forever. Sometimes I look back and I wish I would have taken that opportunity to commission after basic training. I would be an O3 (Captain) by now!!! :smackingf Hind sight is 20/20, right?

    But I can still continue with my original plan of taking the military for EVERY they have. I enlisted and (as my friend sent me an e-mail today for Veteran's Day) I gave the US Government a blank check for up to and including my life. THEY OWE ME!! The military is paying for my ADN and MSN through tuition assistance and the Post 9/11 GI Bill. I can go to school full-time and still take care of my bills and my children (That last part right there is the reason why I didn't become a nurse sooner!)

    As far as respect, a "butter bar (O1)" is like a "private" by officers. And by enlisted Soldiers (Airmen, Sailors, Marines), we may respect you in your face - but almost always we look at you as if you don't know anything... YOU'RE NEW! We almost always respect those who were enlisted first more than those who joined the military as officers off the bat. We feel (and when I say we, I mean approximately 90% of the NCO Corp) an officer who was enlisted first knows where we are because they have been there before. Sometimes it's a little easier to respect someone who has walked in your shoes before. With prior enlisted time, when people see that "butter bar," you can let people know, "I didn't just fall off the back of the turnip truck - I knows me some stuff!" (Or you can be a really humble new officer - we like those ones, too!)

    Both routes - prior enlistment and direct commission has it's pros and cons. With the economy being what it is, more people are joining without the college credits. There are few - if any - enlistment bonuses. There may be more for officers because the military (especially the guard) is hurting for medical officers! It just depends on what your motivation is. It is always advisable to do your own independent research before making any decision before "handing over that blank check to Uncle Sam."

    Good luck and happy decision making!
    ElizEub:) and mmm333 like this.


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