Why did you choose your specific branch? For example, why Army nursing and not Navy nursing?
I had too many tattoos for anyone but the Army. LOL. But I think I would have gone Army anyway -- just a personal preference.
What was the recruiting process like for you? Any guidance/tips about what I should know or do before I speak to a recruiter?
The recruiting process is long and arduous. There is much paperwork wrangling. Be prepared for a long wait! Really long. And even after selection, the wait is long for orders and information. Be sure to speak to a healthcare recruiter -- don't waste time going to a regular recruiter, they won't be of much help (except to put you in touch with a healthcare recruiter). And don't be offended if the healthcare recruiter isn't really interested in you right this minute because you don't have your BSN, or if it takes a while to actually get in touch with a healthcare recruiter. One recruiter often covers multiple areas across states or regions, and with the current job market, you can bet they have a lot of BSN-prepared RNs knocking on their virtual doors. The military, like the civilian world, has become very competitive. RNs who are already in are staying in, leaving fewer slots for new people. Military healthcare recruiting often mirrors the civilian world in that respect.
Did you receive any educational benefits or tuition reimbursements for your service? If you did, please explain/elaborate...
I receive something called an Incentive Special Pay (ISP) bonus because I have board certification as an ER nurse. This is a discretionary bonus, but it's $20K year. I have heard rumors of it going away, but so far it hasn't. But in the era of budget cuts and belt-tightening, it's not likely to last forever. My roommate at officer basic elected to take tuition reimbursement, so her student loans are being paid. Nice deal.
Describe life as military nurse...
Not so different from life as a civilian nurse, but I don't make overtime or shift differential, and it was a pay cut for me. That is part of the the reason the Army pays that ISP to attract specialty nurses.
I do have some extra duties and expectations as an Army nurse -- we are soldiers first. Fitness is important, as is leadership development within the Army structure.
Bases, hospitals, deployments
Varies by service. The Army has larger and smaller hospitals. New grads go to larger facilities, for the most part, so that they can do their initial training and orientation. I was an experienced ER nurse, so I am at a smaller hospital. Deployments are slowing down, but should still be considered a given/likely possibility for those who commission.
Nursing and Officer responsibilities
We're generally assigned collateral duties in our unit. For example, I chair our unit practice council, I am a SANE nurse for our facility, and I am the care teams coordinator for our department. I also have to maintain physical fitness and meet Army requirements, like qualifying with certain weapons on a periodic basis. I actually enjoy the "Army" part. What other employer is going to pay a nurse to crawl around in the dirt and fire an M-16? Bonus!
Living arrangements, roommates
As officers, we're given a fairly generous housing allowance (Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)) as part of our pay. You aren't going to be living in the barracks or be assigned a roommate that you don't want.
BAH varies by duty station and rank.
Service requirements (either active or reserve)
Not sure what you mean by this. I signed on for four years of active duty, though.
Did you enjoy your experience?
So far (1 year, 9 months into it) I've enjoyed it very much, for the most part. As with any job/employer/workplace, there will be frustrations and even superiors that you might not like much. But that's the way it goes! I've had a good experience with my chain of command overall.
Is your nursing specialty based on personal preference, additional training/testing or governmental need
The needs of the Army will always come first. I came in as a 66HM5, and ER nurse, but in reality, the Army can put me anywhere that it needs me.
Anything else worth mentioning/noting, PROS/CONS?
I think it's a fantastic experience. You do need to be prepared to give up some of your personal freedoms -- for example, you can't just take off and drive 300 miles away from your duty station without the proper paperwork! You are at the beck and call of the service, and you have to make your personal peace with it -- it's part of the deal. There are times when nurses call out and none of the civilians want overtime, so you may be compelled to come in on a day off ... learn to roll with it. When it happens, I usually get comp time later or an unexpected day off, which is nice -- my boss takes care of his people. Overall, I am proud to wear the uniform and take care of soldiers. No regrets! I'd do it again in a second.