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Civilian RN to Army nurse

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by TravelRN17 TravelRN17 (New Member) New Member Nurse

94 Profile Views; 10 Posts

Hello everyone,

I am an RN-BSN travel nurse with 4 yrs of experience and I am looking into becoming an Army Nurse. Is there anyone out there who has made the transition between civilian nursing and army? I have a lot of questions.

How is it different? What is army life like as an RN? What is it like in med/surg vs ICU? Do you usually get placed in a hospital or clinic? How often do nurses get deployed?

If anyone is willing to talk to me on the phone let me know! 

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8 Posts; 387 Profile Views

I went into the Air Force with 6 years civilian experience, mainly ICU and step down with some moonlighting in nursery and postpartum. I was given 3 years credit for my experience and came in as an O2 (1Lt). In the civilian world, I worked night shift weekends in the hospital and now I work 7:30-4:30 M-F in an outpatient clinic. I get holidays off and never had issues going to my kids appts or school stuff. Family life is definitely better now. I ended up at a clinic because the majority of bases in my "dream sheet" were smaller bases with only clinics. 

I came in August of last year and my band for deployment is in October. Its unlikely that I will go as nurses from my base don't deploy that often but it's possible. There is a 6mo window that I could receive orders to deploy then I'm "safe" for another 12mo after that.

The big difference for me was the mission comes first, not the patient....if that makes sense. My priority is to make sure that active duty service members are ready and fit to fight, and they take priority over dependents and kids no matter what. I also have to make sure that I'm fit and ready. As a civilian, I would put off my mandatory education until the last minute. Now, I have to make time for that during the duty day...even if that means I have to rearrange patient care to do it.

Hope that's helpful.

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texas_shaka has 2 years experience and specializes in ICU.

35 Posts; 903 Profile Views

If you search around in the boards you can get a lot of info on different people's experiences. I joined a little over a year ago as an ICU nurse with 2 years of ICU civilian experience. So far, I am loving it.

Why do you want to join the military? For me, it was because I wanted to take my ICU nursing to a different level and train to operate in austere environments and take care of our soldiers/vets/dependents. Most days, I feel like I never left the civilian world. I work 12 hour shifts and wear scrubs and my care is no different than being an ICU nurse as a civilian. However, I am getting sent to Colorado for a month to train and set up and run a field hospital.

Deployment depends what your MOS is (ICU nurse, ER, med-surg, etc.) and who you are assigned to. I work at a hospital but I am assigned to a military unit. If they deploy, most likely I will go with them.

If this is really something you want to do, I would talk to an AMEDD recruiter and be prepared for at least a year of applying, getting accepted, and awaiting orders to you first duty assignment.

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10 Posts; 94 Profile Views

Thank you so much for responding. I am med/surg tele now, but I want to be commissioned as an ICU nurse. I want to join for the patient population and the opportunities for growth. In the ICU you work 7 days every 2 weeks like med/surg? Is your military unit based near the hospital or are your fellow nurses a part of your unit?

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texas_shaka has 2 years experience and specializes in ICU.

35 Posts; 903 Profile Views

If you want to join as an ICU nurse (AOC 66S in the Army), you need 2 years of ICU experience preferably in a Trauma 1/University hospital. You can join as a med-surg nurse, work a little while, then apply for the Army's critical care course in San Antonio. Upon graduation, you'd be an ICU nurse.

Yes, 7 days (or nights) every pay period (2 weeks) for a total of 84 hours.

It depends. I'm stationed in Hawaii, a lot of my coworkers in Hawaii are assigned to a unit in Korea. Some Ft. Hood. Some Washington. Some Colorado. All over, really.

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Kateboss has 7 years experience as a RN.

15 Posts; 91 Profile Views

I commissioned as a 1LT after 6 years of civilian nursing on med-surg.  I don't really feel like I'm in the army most of the time.  The biggest difference for me is the money, I make about one third of the money that I made before.  I also used to work a lot of overtime and the army will not pay you overtime for extra hours you put in, and you can only work 16 hours per week at a per diem job.  I also used to travel a lot, and you have to go through like 10 people to leave the country. 

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jfratian has 7 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in ICU.

1,323 Posts; 11,829 Profile Views

You're on point with the frustration of the general bureaucracy.  I agree you do work more hours...especially deployed.  However, I think '1/3' of the money is a bit of an exaggeration.  I don't know how many hours you were working before, but at a normal 36-48 hours per week rate, I can't see how that's true.

When military nurses complain about pay, I frequently point out your tax advantage (a good chunk of your pay isn't taxed: BAH, BAS) and included medical benefits definitely raise your "effective income."  You should go to mypay and look at your "Personal statement of military compensation (PSMC)" to see your 'effective income.'  This is the money you would need to make on the civilian side to enjoy the same quality of life. 

For me, an O-3 with 6 years in, my PSMC without retention bonuses is $105,000 per year.  In my very expensive area, nurses are making $120,000 to $160,000 per year.  If you take the $20,000-$35,000 per year in retention bonuses (I don't), your income really isn't far off. 

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Kateboss has 7 years experience as a RN.

15 Posts; 91 Profile Views

The pay may be comparable if you’re coming from a low paying state, but being from California, and taking BAH and BAS, into account, it is still 1/3 of what I made before.

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jfratian has 7 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in ICU.

1,323 Posts; 11,829 Profile Views

My example is SFO bay area.  My PSMC in the bay is $105,000; the civilian contractor working next to me makes $80/hr...so ~$160,000 per year.  If I wanted to, I could take $35,000 per year in retention bonuses...so $140,000.

I'd be interested to see your math.  I suspect you're not taking into account certain military advantages you enjoy...or the fact that you probably moved from a high cost of living area (CA) to a lower cost area like Texas:

1. Ability to essentially pay income taxes in the state of your choice: I pay Alaska ($0)...not California nonsense.  That's about a $6,000 per year savings.

2. Free healthcare.  For a single person that's about $5,000 per year in saved premiums, copays, and deductibles.  For a family, that's $14,000 per year on average.

3. The effective 15-25% pay raise you get based on untaxed BAS/BAH.  In the bay, my combined BAS/BAH tax advantage is $8,850 per year extra in my pocket.

Just on those things alone, as an individual without dependents, my effective income is about $20,000 per year more.  If you had dependents, that could be $34,000 year of extra money in your pocket.

 

 

 

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jfratian has 7 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in ICU.

1,323 Posts; 11,829 Profile Views

So...$160,000 would be the total value of all my current pay and benefits.  That's exactly equal to the civilian contractor next to me.

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10 Posts; 94 Profile Views

Thank you guys so much for bringing that up. I was a little hesitant due to the pay since I am a travel nurse and take home a nice paycheck. I really want to go in with the ICU program. Is housing a part of the benefits? Do you feel you have more or less comradary with the other nurses/staff? Or with other people in the army?

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