AD or GS? Thoughts for an "older" RN?


Good afternoon! I wasn't sure where would be good to post this so I apologize if it's in the wrong category... I am a nursing student who is on a waiting list to finish my ASN/core classes right now. I am trying to kind of plan out a career path and am looking for opinions on the two that I'm 99% sure I've narrowed it down to- getting commissioned into the USAF or get a RN position as a GS in a military facility. No matter what way I go, I know I have to have my BSN first.

My debate is that I'll be close to 40yrs old if I commission and I know I'd want to go career so that hopefully I can have retirement. I just don't know how much of a physical toll that may take if I'm already pushing 40 and have to keep up with PT tests, deployments, etc. I've worked in a civilian hospital and a MTF (in the lab both places) and it seems that RN's are happier at the military facilities and that's the kind of environment I want to be associated with. So that's why I'd choose to go GS if getting commissioned seems like it'd take too much out of me. My husband is currently AD (also USAF, will be getting out in 4yrs though) and I'm a current GS employee but I'd lose my "place" when I go to finish school since I can only be on LWOP for 1yr.

I guess, to sum it up, I'm looking for opinions on being active duty from RN's or trying to get back into the GS system after I finish school. I'm open to other ideas too :) Thanks so much!

Editorial Team / Moderator

Lunah, MSN, RN

33 Articles; 13,748 Posts

Specializes in EMS, ED, Trauma, CNE, CEN, CPEN, TCRN. Has 15 years experience.

I commissioned at 38, turned 39 before reporting to my first duty station, and deployed the day after my 41st birthday. I don't feel like it's too much for me "at my age," lol. :D I will say that the active duty RNs don't get much free time, generally speaking. We have a lot of requirements and collateral duties in addition to working 80+ hours/pay period wherever we're assigned. GS RNs don't give up that huge chunk of personal freedom that active duty RNs do, but if you can make your peace with that, it's not a bad gig. Most days. ;)

SoldierNurse22, BSN, RN

13 Articles; 2,058 Posts

it seems that RN's are happier at the military facilities

A few years ago, I might have agreed with you, but after my current station, I can't say that I think this is generally true anymore. Keep in mind the budget cuts, the sequestration, the possibility of being forced to move jobs at a second's notice, and the fact that as a GS worker, the government can pretty much tell you what you're going to do...or you lose your retirement, all play huge parts in job satisfaction.

Personally, I'm looking at separation when the time comes. I've been told by many civilians that were it not for the retirement (which is getting harder to get!) that they'd be happily joining me.

midinphx, BSN

853 Posts

Specializes in ED. ICU, PICU, infection prevention, aeromedical e. Has 28 years experience.

I came in at 42. I was prior enlisted. Retirement looks great and is an incentive, but having an AD husband, you know the outlook of that. It's not a guarantee to get to serve 20 years anymore. PT tests adjust slightly with age. I'm feeling older when I go on deployment, but I can still carry my own weight well. I may not be able to lift the same stuff or run as fast as when I was younger, but I think age adds something (at least in my mind, I feel like an asset still).

I think you know what you are getting into. And I would have regretted if I never sought to follow my dream. I'm glad I got in.


126 Posts

Specializes in Surgery. Has 30+ years experience.

I enlisted in the Army at 18, right out of high school and my career path went like this, Medic, LPN, RN. I made it to E6 before my commissioning as a 2LT. before the commissioning, i had 11 years enlisted and 1 combat tour. I retired in 2003 as a captain and age 39. I can tell you that it was starting to get tough on the physical requirements but I had a whole career of my body being beat down and shot at. I was done by that time but if you haven't been bad to your body and you are in decent shape you will probably be OK. just remember that things hurt more after 40. Good luck.

midinphx, BSN

853 Posts

Specializes in ED. ICU, PICU, infection prevention, aeromedical e. Has 28 years experience.

Rob, I have to agree with you about the need to be in shape in any branch of the military. Some nurses say that they are there to take care of patients not run. But I have been deployed with nurses who actually got hurt enroute due to not being in shape enough to manage their multiple bags (I ensured to buy great luggage!). On the other hand…. as a civilian ICU nurse for years, I put my poor back through the wringer! We would have 2 heavy patients and no assistants on the unit, and my turn partner would have 2 of his/her own heavy patients to turn every 2 hours. That does count the patients that took more than 2 people. I find my daily work load to be less physically strenuous in the military - I have techs to help! More people to share the work on a regular daily basis.

With everything, one needs to balance the pros and cons. And frankly, if you are in decent shape, the physical toll is not the hardest part of serving.