Airforce & PHS - Interservice Transfer


  • Has 3 years experience.

My Background: BSN student to graduate summer 2010. Considering a military/uniformed commission immediately after graduation or shortly thereafter (a few years). I've scoured both respective websites extensively and have read many relevant threads here.

The ultimate goal of mine would be for me to have a long and happy career serving with the Air Force, and a good retirement :)

Question: How realistic and/or possible would it be to take a 3-year commitment at the PHS (and get the starting bonus), work for example as an ICU nurse at one of their few IHS hospitals, rank up to O-3 within that time, then either continue @ PHS until O-4 and then interservice transfer to AD AF, or just transfer right after my 3-year commitment?

My understanding is that rank is maintained during an interservice transfer. Is it safe to assume that that also means years served is carried over too? i.e. for retirement and pay scale.

The reason I ask this is that the PHS starts out baby nurses at O-2, while the AF would start them at O-1 (correct me if I am wrong). In addition to that, is the timescale for PHS O-2 to O-4 quicker than the timescale for AF O-1 to O-4?

I know that one shouldn't consider the military/uniform based solely on benefits and compensation, but it is important to be pragmatic nonetheless. I'm just trying to get a better picture of my options as a soon-to-be baby, new nurse. You only get to be new once!


461 Posts

Specializes in psych/medical-surgical. Has 14 years experience.

I know I am digging up old dirt here, but I spoke to a phs officer a few days ago (I was originally calling for a job) and was told that you can transfer between the services - AF and PHS in this case - and you keep your rank. The PHS officer also told me that she actually had a couple of people recently transfer from the AF to the PHS. I can't imagine that years of service would not transfer as well.

Your idea makes sense, but I have found a ridiculous amount of resistance trying to apply for a position in the PHS. I used their search database to identify 6 positions I was interested in, and I have so far been called back by 3 places I left messages, in all cases, the contact information was off, and the positions were already filled. I also asked about the bonus/loan repayment and was told I have to actually contact the individual agency (BOP, IHS etc.) in order to find out if they are offering the bonus/loan repayment. Tracking down the people that know answers to your questions is really difficult. I also found out you must apply for loan repayment and you might not get it. The bonus/loan repayment/tuition assistance programs for the AF are so much more upfront than the scarce information on the USPHS website. The difference in pay would be worth the hassle if I could find a position I was extremely interested in.

In contrast to the PHS, the AF is definitely more proactive in recruiting nurses. I would consider transferring from the AF to the PHS, once I am up for O-4, since that seems to be the rank where officers start getting stuck in the muck in the AF. Don't know if I will serve long enough to anyway.

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