I'll soon be 45, and am about to graduate from the Radford University (Virginia) BSN program. I'm a USAF veteran (a Signals Intel Officer from 1984-88). The AF nursing recruiter is making me a *very* lucrative offer. Having had to take three years off of life for nursing school
, and live on borrowed money for the whole time, things are going to be tight. The AF claims to be offering as much as $57k up front (bonus plus loan repayment), which would take a healthy bite out of what I owe. Walking in the door as a 4-year O-3 offers me a super salary, and based on thumbnail calculations, probably at least a 42% increase over what I'd be making with the job I've been offered locally on a thoracic surgical ICU. That would allow me to keep my current home (which I **REALLY** don't want to sell), as well as keeping up with the loan payments while still living a decent lifestyle. All that is good.
My concerns are these:
1. I'm really only interested in critical care (specifically ICU) nursing. My immediate goal is to get ICU experience to begin pursuing...
2. Grad school. I want to get my CRNA (I have a background as a Licensed Veterinary Technician, and have been trained in and actually done surgical anesthesia on all kinds of animals). Will I be able to steer myself easily into an appropriate critical care setting to get this experience ASAP? I know there are no guarantees of anything in the military, but if I get an assignment to (say for instance) WPAFB, is there a severe enough shortage of critical care RN's to allow me to get in pretty easily to whatever kind of unit I'm interested in? By graduation I'll have close to six months of solid ICU clinical experience, from a summer externship and a clinical practicum (medical/surgical ICU and CCU).
3. Grad school - I know it's handled through AFIT. How hard or easy is it to get a fully funded slot? I can't afford to pay for CRNA school myself anytime soon. I need to get the AF to pay for it, and to pay me my salary while I attend. I have excellent grades, am motivated, and will have no trouble jumping through all the requisite hoops to get in. I just want to know how big the hoops are, and how far they are off the ground, etc.
4. What are the odds that if I were to stay in after CRNA school (it would incur an additional 3-4 year additional commitment after graduation) that I can just be a clinician? I have zero interest in commanding anybody or anything. Been there, done that. I want to manage and command me and my patients. Do military nurses have to go to Squadron Officer School and ACSC and all that silly stuff?
5. What are the other pitfalls I'm not seeing? I know very little about military (specifically USAF) nursing. I'm fairly comfortable about the military in general.
6. What about deployments? Is the USAF deploying people to fun places like Afghanistan? I know that's part of the game, but what are the real odds? Especially for a newly minted RN with little practical experience under his belt?
Any and all information will be most gratefully appreciated as I proceed toward my decision nexus on this. Graduation is in early May, and I need to move ahead smartly if I'm going to do it. I only have less than a 12-month window to get onto active duty (age stuff) without a waiver.