civilian RN interested in Air Force nursing

  1. Hi Everyone!

    I have 10 years civilian nursing experience (everything from med-surg, home care, OR, even case management). I am very interested in Air Force nursing mostly because of retirement benefits and advancement opportunities, team work, respectful treatment of peers and management (I would think it's better in the military). I spoke to a recruiter and he said that I would be able to go in as a Capt because of the experience. How is the pay rate? How are the benefits? What does a Capt's rank entail as far as nursing responsibilities? What about promoting to Lt. Col and Col? Is it difficult? Do you have to test each time you want a promotion? Sign on bonus?
    I would probably enter in my main specialty, OR nursing (is that in demand in the AF?). I am currently a Case Manager and would rather do that or discharge planning. The recruiter didn't seem to know what I was talking about.
    I would appreciate any information...I need the good, the bad and the ugly. I'm just afraid the recruiter might paint a prettier picture just to get me to sign up. I would love to ask him to set me up with an RN so that I can talk to them, but I'm afraid he will set me up with someone who won't be completely honest either.
    What is the Commissioned Officer's Training like...what is their PT like? What's the likelihood to get deployed to a combat zone or a danger zone? How long are deployments? What about TDY and "Remotes"? I have two very young children and would hate to be away from them for a very long time.
    How is the housing for Capts? What about civilian husbands? Are there many since nursing is more of a female dominant job? How long are the typical tour of duties? What's the liklihood of getting the place that you want to go? What's the liklihood of retiring in 20 years as a Col or above?
    Any information will be GREATLY appreciated!!! Thanks!
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  2. Visit bkg98 profile page

    About bkg98

    Joined: Nov '05; Posts: 10

    14 Comments

  3. by   wtbcrna
    Hi,

    Let me try to give this a shot. I have been an Air Force nurse for about 4yrs now.
    1. The way they calculate your time towards rank is for the first 6 years as an RN is 1/2 credit and then 1 for 1 after that. It looks like that would put you coming in as Cpt with 3yrs. Basically you will be a Cpt for 6-8yrs before being eligible promote for Major.
    2. The base pay table is at http://www.dod.mil/dfas/money/milpay...e2005-rev1.doc. Currently your base pay should be 3125 a month + BAS + BAH. You should go to www.military.com for a better explanation of military pay.
    3. Benefits are excellent in the military. We get 30 days vacation every year, free medical, free dental for you and low cost dental for your family, chance to go to school full time while on active duty, tdy for ceu's every other year on a competitive basis, the list goes on but those are some of the big ones.
    4. For most places that you will work as a Capt you will be a regular staff nurse w/ minimal responsibilities, but still a lot more than your civilian counterparts.
    5. LTC is fairly common rank if you're willing to do all the things they want you to do to get it. It will take about 7-8 yrs after becoming a Maj to be eligible to promote to LTC. Col is very competitive in the Air Force right now for nurses.
    6. Promotions are based on your yearly performance reports and awards etc. Officers do not test for promotions.
    7. Sign on bonus is 15,000 for 4yrs. right now.
    8. I would stick w/ the OR nursing. OR nurses are in demand in the Air Force right now. Case Managers are not used as much in the Air Force. All the Case Managers we have where I'm stationed are civilian social workers. There isn't as much call for nurse managers in the military, because everyone we see is covered by insurance and has the same insurance.
    9. Don't sweat Commissioned officer training or the PT. Just start working on jogging 1.5 miles and doing pushups/situps. Everything will come together as long as you exercise consistently 3-5x a wk.
    10. You will be deployed at some point. Right now most of us in the Air Force are on an 15mo cycle. Which means you have the potential to deploy once every 15 months. The deployments are usually 4 months. Now saying all that I have been in almost 4yrs and yet to be deployed, but some of my friends seem to get popped every 12 months or so for deployment.
    11. TDYs and Remotes: Your first TDY is COT. Most of the TDYs for nurses are volunteer and those are usually fairly short 1-2 wks. Remotes for nurses are usually only volunterer including Korea.
    12. Tour of duty: You will spend approximately 3yrs at each duty station, and 2 yrs if it is an overseas assignment.
    13. Civilian Husbands: I wouldn't know since I'm male, but my wife has seemed to adjust rather well. It mostly depends on how well their job will transfer. Alot of spouses are nurses, teachers or something that is easy to find a job from duty station to duty station.
    14. Mostly female dominated.......Not in the military.......We are about 40% male and 60% female. We're taking over......lol. Most of the higher ranking nurses though are female, but that is slowly changing to a more equal mix.
    15. Retirement: I don't know your age, but if you want to retire you need to be no older than 41-42 by the time of your first day on active duty otherwise you won't make the mandatory age of 62 for retirement.

    As far as day to day stuff as a nurse: Well in general you are treated with more respect, the nurse pt ratios are better than most civilian hospitals, and you have more help d/t medical technicians or surgical techs if you are going to OR. The trade off is the extra military duties and the politics/bureauocracy.
    It is always a lot of fun when you are the same rank as the docs or higher rank. It really puts a damper on docs with large egos. You will have different kind of relationship than you'reprobably used to with doctors. The doctors will, especially the younger ones, will treat you as colleagues for the most part. I definetively would recommend the military nursing atleast one time in almost every nurses career. It is not all chocolate and roses, and I definetively have my bad days where I have second thoughts about joining the military.


    Good Luck!

    Quote from bkg98
    Hi Everyone!

    I have 10 years civilian nursing experience (everything from med-surg, home care, OR, even case management). I am very interested in Air Force nursing mostly because of retirement benefits and advancement opportunities, team work, respectful treatment of peers and management (I would think it's better in the military). I spoke to a recruiter and he said that I would be able to go in as a Capt because of the experience. How is the pay rate? How are the benefits? What does a Capt's rank entail as far as nursing responsibilities? What about promoting to Lt. Col and Col? Is it difficult? Do you have to test each time you want a promotion? Sign on bonus?
    I would probably enter in my main specialty, OR nursing (is that in demand in the AF?). I am currently a Case Manager and would rather do that or discharge planning. The recruiter didn't seem to know what I was talking about.
    I would appreciate any information...I need the good, the bad and the ugly. I'm just afraid the recruiter might paint a prettier picture just to get me to sign up. I would love to ask him to set me up with an RN so that I can talk to them, but I'm afraid he will set me up with someone who won't be completely honest either.
    What is the Commissioned Officer's Training like...what is their PT like? What's the likelihood to get deployed to a combat zone or a danger zone? How long are deployments? What about TDY and "Remotes"? I have two very young children and would hate to be away from them for a very long time.
    How is the housing for Capts? What about civilian husbands? Are there many since nursing is more of a female dominant job? How long are the typical tour of duties? What's the liklihood of getting the place that you want to go? What's the liklihood of retiring in 20 years as a Col or above?
    Any information will be GREATLY appreciated!!! Thanks!
  4. by   Corvette Guy
    Hey wtbcrna,

    Excellent post.
  5. by   bkg98
    wtbcrna...

    I agree. Thank you very much for all the information. You really spelled it out very well.
    Question about the 30 days vacation...is that really PTO (paid time off) used as sick, vacation and personal days? I read on another post somewhere that nurses can be so busy, one would be lucky to get the 30 days, then end up losing the time in the end.
    What about emergency situations such as if one of my children were sick or injured in school, could I leave the shift early? Are the shifts pretty much like civilian shifts? Do you know if OR nurses are also on call for the OR (ie: trauma, too many surgeries going on at once, etc...)
    What about holidays? Are they just rotated like civilian nursing? Do the shifts rotate? Do you know if I would be able to have a "brush up" course for the OR...a little rusty since it's been over a year since I worked in the OR.
    Again...THANK you very much, you provided GREAT information!
    Last edit by bkg98 on Nov 12, '05
  6. by   wtbcrna
    Actually it is 30 days of paid vacation every year + 10 paid holidays per. You are never docked for sick time whether it is one hour or one year. You would usually rotate the holidays. As an OR nurse you will rarely work the holidays depending on the base you are assigned to, but you could be on call. OR nursing is pretty much a Mon-Fri day shift position w/ call. I doubt they will give you a brush up course, but most places will be more than generous in your orientation time.
    Last edit by wtbcrna on Nov 12, '05
  7. by   bkg98
    Thanks so much again! All the information that you have provided is VERY helpful. Everything sounds really good. The AF has a lot to offer. Civilian nursing definitely does not offer anything close to what the AF does. And I have worked in small companies, non-profit orgs, community hospital, as well as a HUGE major university trauma 1 center...they all don't offer the same or even close. Actual base pay is better in the civilian world, but when you count in the housing, food, clothing, dependents, medical, travel, vacation (have NEVER heard of 30 days vacation and they don't dock sick time!)etc...AF pretty much offers more. Now our other decision will be the most difficult one...is it worth taking the chance as far as getting deployed for extended amounts of time? Will my husband be able find a job in the areas we get stationed (he's a police officer so he can work for companies that need surveillance and he's a photographer). The biggest concern is retirement. If I join, it will have to be for 20+ years. We would need the pension and benefits. As a police officer, my husband can retire right now in 9 years with pension and full medical and dental benefits (they are pretty much like the AF, we have only paid co-pays, nothing else). I just have to make sure that we can adjust to living the military lifestyle until retirement and that I can do the things I need to do in order to continue in the service and get promoted. Once I join, I know, it's no looking back for me...I will have to stay until retirement. Such a huge decision. This is why I am asking so many questions and asking people their honest opinions of AF lifestyle and how they like it. I know it's not perfect, no job, place of employment or career is. I expect that, and I would question anyone's opinion if they did say it was all "chocolates and roses". This is one of the biggest reasons why I don't want to just rely on a recruiter. Not that I have anything against them, but their job is to recruite people and the more the better.
    Thanks so much again for all the information...this is really one of the first most detailed and informative threads I have read on these message boards. Frankly, I am very surprised someone responded so quickly.
    Thanks again!!!!
  8. by   wtbcrna
    Are there any bases close to you now?
  9. by   bkg98
    I believe McGuire is the closest. Dover is a little further than MacGuire. Willow Grove (I know is a Naval Air Station) is also not that far. Not sure if there's anything else around.
    Last edit by bkg98 on Nov 14, '05
  10. by   bethin
    Could I be an Air Force nurse if I have health problems? Specifically, mitral valve prolapse and Crohn's?
  11. by   wtbcrna
    Do you think you could be deployed with minimal medical care with these problems? The reason I ask is basically that is what the Air Force will consider when looking over your package. You would have to get a waiver for these problems. If these are ongoing problems I don't think you would want to be an active duty nurse. On the other hand if these health problems don't cause you any problems at all and require minimal medical f/u you should look into it. Hope that helps...

    Quote from bethin
    Could I be an Air Force nurse if I have health problems? Specifically, mitral valve prolapse and Crohn's?
  12. by   mitchsmom
    bkg98,
    Just curious, is your husband unhappy with the police job? Why start over with 20 years instead of finishing out the 9? Hard decision!

    Not to sound negative, because I think it sounds like there are a lot of advantages and good points to military nursing...and I have nothing against the military whatsoever... and I don't know what the actual chances of you being deployed or going to a combat area are... but I would think anyone considering the military should certainly be prepared to be separated from spouse and kids, once you are in they own you and you're fair game - we are at war after all. I've heard more people than I can count talk about how things didn't turn out how the recruiter made it sound or promised, so you are smart to find out the good & bad first. I would absolutely want to go to an actual hospital and shadow someone and be able to talk to people of my own chosing.

    I don't know about military nursing, I'm just a military brat (Dad and stepdad officers both retired recently @ 30 years; dh was also military our first few years together, my BIL & dh's best friend are currently in too). About getting stationed where you want, for all the military people I've known, it's pretty much been "sometimes you do, sometimes ya don't". Like I said, that's just what I've gleaned from talking to people over the years - I'm not trying to be a know it all when I'm not even in the military.

    It may be an awesome choice for you, like I said I personally just think you are smart to be prepared for the reality of what you are getting into, good and bad. Good luck to you!
    Last edit by mitchsmom on Nov 14, '05
  13. by   wtbcrna
    Good advice....I would never fully trust my recruiter, if for no other reason most of them have no idea about nursing. My recruiter was originally an aircraft maintenace person before becoming a recruiter... You can always get out of the military, but it gets real complicated real quick if you want to get out before your time is up.... When you come into the military you will be deployed at some point. Usually for a new nurse you usually won't be considered until about your one year mark, but you are eligible the day after you sign into your 1st duty station.
    That person's name I gave you at Mcquire I am sure would let you shadow him if you're interested. Although Mcquire is just a clinic and it would probably be pretty boring....lol
    One other thing there has been a move in the last few years to try and give officers more say in where we go, but only that 1st assignment is going to be a sure thing and that is going to be because you can turn it down with no consequences.


    Quote from mitchsmom
    bkg98,
    Just curious, is your husband unhappy with the police job? Why start over with 20 years instead of finishing out the 9? Hard decision!

    Not to sound negative, because I think it sounds like there are a lot of advantages and good points to military nursing...and I have nothing against the military whatsoever... and I don't know what the actual chances of you being deployed or going to a combat area are... but I would think anyone considering the military should certainly be prepared to be separated from spouse and kids, once you are in they own you and you're fair game - we are at war after all. I've heard more people than I can count talk about how things didn't turn out how the recruiter made it sound or promised, so you are smart to find out the good & bad first. I would absolutely want to go to an actual hospital and shadow someone and be able to talk to people of my own chosing.

    I don't know about military nursing, I'm just a military brat (Dad and stepdad officers both retired recently @ 30 years; dh was also military our first few years together, my BIL & dh's best friend are currently in too). About getting stationed where you want, for all the military people I've known, it's pretty much been "sometimes you do, sometimes ya don't". Like I said, that's just what I've gleaned from talking to people over the years - I'm not trying to be a know it all when I'm not even in the military.

    It may be an awesome choice for you, like I said I personally just think you are smart to be prepared for the reality of what you are getting into, good and bad. Good luck to you!
  14. by   bethin
    Thanks, you've given me some hope. I've always wanted to be in the military. I go to my specialist once a year. I've never had any real problems with my heart. Sometimes I forget I even have mitral valve prolapse.





    Quote from wtbcrna
    Do you think you could be deployed with minimal medical care with these problems? The reason I ask is basically that is what the Air Force will consider when looking over your package. You would have to get a waiver for these problems. If these are ongoing problems I don't think you would want to be an active duty nurse. On the other hand if these health problems don't cause you any problems at all and require minimal medical f/u you should look into it. Hope that helps...

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