To RNs presently commissioned in the Navy Army or Airforce and on Active Duty:
1) How many hours a week do you work on the floor? Are they typical 12hr shifts?
2) How much say do you have as to where you are stationed and whether you deploy?
3) What duties are required of you beyond working on the floor for your scheduled shifts?
My goal is to gain insight into the differences between being an RN (medsurg, PCU, ICU, ED) in a civilian hospital versus in a military hospital.
Honestly there is not that much difference from being a civilian RN to a military RN for the first few years. I've been active duty Army RN for 9 years now. Worked Med/Surge, ED, PACU and ICU but am a ICU nurse per my AOC. Also have done some non shift work, Hospital education coordinator, bed coordinator, and LVN instructor. Currently I am a student while on Active duty working towards my DNP. (One of the biggest benefits to being in the Army/Military)
1.) When assigned as a staff nurse I worked between 80-84 hours scheduled 12 hour shifts in a two week period. (80 Hour work weeks would include one 8 hour shift). I would rotate every 4 months of days to two months of nights. I would be on call typically one shift in a two week period getting called in probably 4-6 times a year. There is no overtime in the military so while they try to give you that day back it is not a guarantee.
2.) Until recently you would give your wish-list to your branch manager which typically consisted of your top three big Medical Centers and top Force Command positions (Combat Support hospitals). Out of thee assignments I have gotten my second choice once, the other two assignments were at locations I did not ask for. Now though, there is a marketplace where you apply for assignments and are somewhat determined by your skill sets so I am told. It's new and it wasn't in place for my last move so I am not sure how well it works.
As for deployments you do not have really much say if you deploy. If you are assigned to a combat support hospital or Forward Surgical team that is deploying then you will deploy. (Unless you have extenuating circumstances.) If you are working at a military hospital and you are not assigned to a Combat support Hospital you can still be pulled through the PROFIS system to be deployed with a deploying medical unit. You often have a few months at least notice that this is happening but it is not a guarantee. My last deployment I had just over 3 weeks notice that I was deploying.
3.) Additionally duties are going to vary while assigned as a staff nurse and are similar to additional duties that are often seen in a civilian side. In the military though you can not refuse additional duties and you may be assigned two or three depending on your OIC (boss). Sometimes you are given admin days to complete these but often you are doing these duties on your days off. I for one many times would come in 1 - 3 times a week for several hours on my days off to complete additional duties. As well as attend mandatory training that I could not attend while working the floor.
Bottom line while civilian and military shift work is similar you definitely have less control when it comes to where you are going to work and how much you are going to work in the military. You also have to be willing and ready to deploy with little notice and be gone for 6-12 months, or even longer. On the flip-side I feel you have more opportunity for leadership positions, unique positions that are specific to military nursing, better educational opportunities, pay is on par or better then most civilian areas, and fulfillment of serving your county and providing care to active duty service members, their family and veterans.
Last edit by SoldierMurse on Aug 17
: Reason: spelling
Yikes I wasn't expecting that many extra duties and hours a week. I was looking at what pay I would get if I were to join up and it looks about $89K a year (O-1E, w/dependent, 6yrs of service). I guess because BAH is tax-free the practical income is about $103. I was thinking military pay was the obvious option because as a civilian I only make about $80k/year, but then I realized at a civilian job it's 36 hrs a week period- no call, no unpaid training time. I get paid my hourly rate for all additional training or meetings outside of scheduled shifts. If I worked 46 hrs a week my yearly would be $103k.
Haha I already feel like 36 hrs a week is too much. I'm not sure if adding another 4-8hrs of floor time plus several hrs of admin time a week is right for me. Kudos to you for having the fortitude to work so many hours a week! And thank you for sharing with me
I'm curious if all military branches are this way.
I just want to second everything that SoldierMurse had to say - very accurate description of my experience in the Army (though I only did 4.5 years of active). With my deployment, though I was assigned via the Professional Filler System (PROFIS) to a CSH, I ended up deploying with a Forward Surgical Team (FST). I heard at the end of February 2013 that there was a tasker with my name on it and that I was going somewhere with someone (no real info yet); I went to the "Joint Forces Combat Trauma Management Course" in San Antonio in March, found out I was going with an FST in April, went to the Army Trauma Training Center (ATTC) in Miami in May with my team (first time I met them), and deployed in June. So I had a little bit of notice, but I had no idea where in Afghanistan I was going until almost the time that I left (it was hush-hush because it was with one of those hush-hush teams).
If you commission, you really do give up control of your life and your waking/sleeping hours. OP, are you prior service? You indicated you would get "E" pay, which is for those who have served previously for at least 4 years + 1 day, so this loss of life control shouldn't be too foreign to you if you are indeed prior service.
Yes I'm prior service. 7 years active. I was a line medic with the infantry for 3 years, and I deployed with them- there were some tough times. Then I was stationed at Walter Reed for 3 years. I recall the absolute loss of control throughout. But I'm curious if it different for commissioned nurses than for enlisted. Enlisted was killing my spirt. After 7 years I had to get out. I ended my contract honorably of course. But indeed, being enlisted is rife with moments of being belittled, bullied, etc. I am okay with longer work hours and unexpected mission changes, as long as I am also treated as a professional. There's a lot of paternalism and lack of confidence amongst soldiers within the enlisted side.
My husband was a medic, and I saw a lot of those spirit-killing things. Life is definitely better on the commissioned side of the house, but it is also largely dependent on not having toxic leadership. I went in acting like a professional and expecting to be treated as such, and for the most part, I was. I believe some people have overall better experiences with their leadership than I did. My department leadership was great; that's about all I will say.
Thank you for serving, and for wanting to continue to do so!
I was also prior service medic and LVN, and I can confirm it is much better on the officer side. You are for the most part treated as a professional and I see that the enlisted within the hospital have to put up with much more BS than the officers do. In my career I've only had one really bad supervisor that made me dread having to come into work. Luckily I only had a 6 month overlap with them before I PCS'd. For the most part nursing leadership is very supportive of your goals and aspirations and will work to support them as long as they can allow it with the overall mission of the hospital and unit.
As prior enlisted you should have a pretty good idea what you may be getting yourself into with the loss of control over location, job and total hours of work. Definitely don't do this for the money because as you said when you break it down hourly, its about the same as the civilian side. For me I truly enjoy being in the military and the population we serve. Also I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get paid to go to school for three years. Good luck on whichever path you choose.
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