Army Nursing: All Good Things Must Come To An End
March 2014 came and went with me returning home from my nine-month deployment to Afghanistan and having three years of active duty under my proverbial belt. I originally signed a contract for four years of active duty, and this was the time to decide: what next?I knew that I wanted to step away from active service. This decision was underscored by my last day on my compound in Afghanistan, when I read an email from a person higher up in my chain of command, telling me that I was PCS-vulnerable (while still deployed, seriously?!) and asking how Korea sounded. HA! I wrote back that it sounded horrible, I was not even home from Afghanistan yet, I hadn't seen my husband for nine months and he wouldn't be able to join me in Korea because he is finishing his undergrad degree (bio/pre-med) at a local university. I added that I would not be remaining on active duty past my initial four-year contract, and that sealed the deal. It was out there for the universe: I was going back to civilian life.
My relatively short time in the Army has contained some big life changes: a not-so-graceful exit from my 30s into my 40s with a divorce, a new relationship and marriage, nine months in a war zone, and a new-ish and abiding love of running. I came very close to completing my MSN (everything but the capstone) on the Army's dime. It's been full of good things, and some very sad things, but it has been more positive than negative.
When I commissioned, I had intended to be a "lifer," and honestly that would have been okay with me. There is nothing about the Army that I cannot endure, with one dealbreaking exception: I need control over where I live at this point in my life. We don't know where David will be going to med school, and I don't want to be on opposite ends of the country. This is something I could not have foreseen when I commissioned, but it is what it is. I am at a point in my life and career where I need to hold the reigns, so I'm taking them back.
Recently I had the privilege of spending some quality ER shift/precepting time with an ROTC nursing cadet, and we had many talks about the pros and cons of active duty; she is approaching the end of her BSN program and will soon be facing a decision about AD vs. Reserves. I told her that, at the end of the day, I really had no regrets about having been active duty. For a new grad RN it's guaranteed employment, and the clinical nurse transition program can be a lengthy and thorough orientation, as some of my friends have told me. I entered the Army with 3 years of experience, so I got a few shifts of orientation, not a few months. But with the new grad climate being what it is, active duty is a good choice, as long as one goes in with eyes open. There are fantastic benefits, like tuition assistance once a person qualifies for it, as well as the GI Bill when one reaches the minimum amount of service.
So I started the process to exit active duty. The first thing I had to do was email some information and documents to my hospital HR person so that she could generate what is called my "unqualified resignation." Of course, all Army service comes in blocks of 8 years, and my active duty service obligation (ADSO) is four years. I will be spending the other 4 either in the Reserves, or in the Inactive Ready Reserve (IRR). The difference? For the Reserves, I would be part of a local unit and would have drill obligations on a periodic basis. IRR means just that: inactive. No drill, nada, but I am subject to recall during that period. I can't seem to get the Reserve Recruiter to return phone calls or emails, so I might just end up in IRR! It's a frustrating start to my transition, for sure.
I also had to meet with the Deputy Commander for Nursing (DCN) once my unqualified resignation packet was signed by me and ready to be sent forward. That was a brief discussion, during which the horrors of civilian life were related to me in hushed tones. No really, it wasn't quite that dramatic, but I did have to remind her that I have been working for the last 20 years in the civilian world, only the last 3 years have been military, and that I was extremely familiar with the idea of having to pay for healthcare and not receiving a housing allowance. She agreed I was prepared for a return to the civilian world and signed off on my packet.
About a week later I received an emailed memo from the Army HR Command that ultimately approved my release from active duty in the summer of 2015. Granted, that memo tells me I can change my mind if I desire! Ha. It has been a great honor and a privilege to serve in an active capacity, and we'll see if I end up continuing as a full-fledged Reservist. Stay tuned!Last edit by Joe V on Nov 4, '16
About Pixie.RN, MSN, RN, EMT-P Senior Moderator
Pixie.RN: a short green-eyed redhead, very tattooed, Emergency/Trauma Nurse, former CPT/66T (Army). Avid reader, addicted to good shoes, allnurses, and her Android smartphone.
Joined: Aug '05; Posts: 16,876; Likes: 14,065Aug 21, '14Quote from SoldierNurse22It has been more good than bad, but yeah, sometimes "good." lolAmen, sister. Though I'd definitely include quotation marks around "good".Aug 21, '14Quote from Pixie.RNYou're probably right, as much as I doubt my own words as I type. If I think back to a few years ago, though, I'm sure I'd vehemently agree!It has been more good than bad, but yeah, sometimes "good." lolAug 21, '14This has gone through my mind a lot as I have served in the Navy... I keep coming back to the thinking that the grass is always greener, and would I really be happy if I got out, or would it be fun at first, and then as I settled into a routine become something I miss? I think you made the right decision; I have no children yet and nothing to really keep me from getting out at the moment, so in the meantime I am just trying to eat up as much experience as I can and maybe also go to school again on the military's dime. Will I be a lifer? I never thought I would be in past my initial committment, and I am still unsure... guess time will tell!Aug 21, '14Thank you for your service! And best of luck to you and your spouse getting him through medical school. Hope he has a good pair of running shoes, also. Nothing like a run for stress relief.Aug 21, '14Thank you for your service. My father (vet) wanted me (army brat) to join, but now that I have an almost 2 year old daughter, it is out of the question for now.Aug 21, '14Quote from sbush86Having been on both kinds of grass, I know which one I prefer! lol. Will I miss the Army? Sure, parts of it. If I think I'll miss it that much, I can go Reserves (which I understand is very different than active duty, but it'll let me keep my foot in the door). Since it doesn't sound like you've done civilian nursing, you'd probably find that it's not much different, at least at the bedside. There are annoyances with every job, be it military or civilian; you won't always like your boss, or your coworkers. At least with the military, the roster changes a little more often!This has gone through my mind a lot as I have served in the Navy... I keep coming back to the thinking that the grass is always greener, and would I really be happy if I got out, or would it be fun at first, and then as I settled into a routine become something I miss?Aug 21, '14Don't forget you can always get a GS job and your time in the Army counts toward that retirement. Oh, and if you work in a state retirement institution, it'll go towards that as well. Good luck with everythingAug 21, '14Quote from tacomasterAlready in the works. Thanks!!Don't forget you can always get a GS job and your time in the Army counts toward that retirement.Aug 22, '14Its been a pleasure serving with you. Spoke with some of your FST partners last week and you were spoken highly of. Not sure if joining you next year back in the civilian world.Aug 22, '14You belong with your husband, is future will be tied up with Medical School, Residency, and Fellowship. Thank you for your service and hopefully you will get your choice of reserve status.
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