How does one get assigned to an Army forward surgical team?

  1. hello,

    i'm 30 and currently in an asn program and will graduate and take the nclex to get my licensure in georgia at the end of summer semester 2010. from there, i plan to work in civilian nursing for a year while i do an online bsn program (haven't decided which one yet, but i'm leaning toward unc-chapel hill: rn-bsn program @ unc chapel hill's school of nursing). at any rate, i should have a bsn and a year of nursing experience under my belt by the end of 2011, which is when i'll be looking to go into military nursing. i'll be 32 at the time.

    so far, the aspects of military nursing that interest me the most are flight nursing/aeromedical evacuations and the army's forward surgical teams. more specifically, the airborne units like the 250th fst at ft. lewis (i'd love to be able to go to airborne and air assault school).

    however, there seems to be precious little information available on the internet about how one actually goes about qualifying for and being selected as a member of a fst.

    is anyone here on a fst or knowledgeable about the process of getting on one?

    for my civilian work experience while i'm getting my bsn, should i just do a year of med-surg or would it be to my advantage to try to get into icu or er nursing right off the bat so i can go ahead and get my acls and critical care experience?

    any advice anyone has to offer someone currently in nursing school with aspirations of becoming a member of an airbore fst would be greatly appreciated.


    ps (do the navy and air force have anything that is analagous to the army's fst as far as providing medical support closer to the front lines and giving you an opportunity to work in a more unconventional role as far as military nursing goes and afford you the opportunity for specialized training like airborne/air assault, or is that something that is pretty much unique to the army? i've googled but so far haven't found anything.)
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    About UGADawgs

    Joined: May '09; Posts: 64; Likes: 40


  3. by   olderthandirt2
    Unless I am wrong (highly possible) at OBLC we were instructed that nurses are stationed at level 3 and higher......not forward. PAs, Surgeons & Medics are Forward. (CRNA's, not sure.....level 3 also?)

    I have heard of another rn trying to join up with an airborne/forward team, but it is a "who you know" situation. Not the norm. As far as flight might be better fitted with the AF who have a number of air med/air critical care positions. Army is all about ground.

    "Per CorvetteGuy 4/2006":

    The continuum of care is broken down into 5 Levels of Care. Keep in mind the FEBA [Fwd Edge of the Battlefield] is not clearly marked in Iraq, Afganistan, etc.

    Level 5 [General Hospital], Army Medical Centers CONUS,
    Level 4 [Field Hospitals], Lundstahl Germany,
    Level 3 [CSH], Combat Support Hospital which provides hospitalization for patients within the theater [Iraq, for example]
    * Levels 5-3 have RNs, whereas for the most part levels 1 & 2 are LVNs [91WM6] & Combat Medics [91W], which are similar to EMTs in civilian comparison
    Level 1 [Platoon/Troop Movement] care is strictly EMT type care & evac up to the next appropriate & available level of care.
    Level 2 Provides medical care to those battalions with organic medical platoons, as well as level 1 & 2 medical treatment on an area support basis to Units w/o organic Health Support assets. The FST is both level 2 & 3.

    good luck,
    Last edit by olderthandirt2 on May 15, '09
  4. by   jeckrn
    RN's which are assigned to FST's are 66H/M5 (ER) & 66E peri-opertive nurses, 66F (CRNA) at least on the reserve side, unsure about active side. Do not know if the AF or Navy have an equivlant to a FST but the Navy does have Nurses assigned to the Fleet Marine Force.
  5. by   FST6

    I just returned from Afghanistan where I was the commander of an FST. I am in the Army Reserve, so active duty isn't your only option for living the FST life. As for selection, there really isn't an application process unless the unit commander creates a set of skills he or she wants from his staff. However, there are some things you need to know about an FST:
    1. You are way out front.
    2. You regularly do not have any other readily available medical back up.
    3. You will not have everything you need and will have to be resourceful.
    4. You will experience days and days of nothing followed by a sudden deluge of patients.

    You may not want to hear this, but an FST is not a place for a brand new nurse. As there are only 3 RN's in a standard 20-man FST (1 OR, 1 ICU, 1 ER), so there isn't much space for someone who doesn't know their job extremely well. You won't always be a 20 man team either. For example, I was on a split FST with only 12 personnel. I was the commander, ICU nurse, patient admin officer, and evacuation coordinator. I would take care of patients in the ER, help out as a circulating nurse on the OR at times, and I recovered all post-op ICU patients. I also assisted with flight transport of critically injured patients when needed. To be successful as an FST nurse, you will need several years of solid experience (either ICU, OR, or ER) and the following training:
    1. ACLS
    2. PALS
    3. TNCC (Trauma Nurse Core Course)
    4. ABLS (Advanced Burn Life Support)

    There are also other courses offered by the military (such as the Combat Casualty Care Course) which help prepare you for caring for battle trauma. When you are in an FST, all of these skill sets will be called upon. Lets just say your scope of practice is quite a bit larger than you would find in a civilian setting. Bottom line, you need to know your sh*t, front to back and top to bottom. You have to be able to make critical decisions in a moments notice. I know the FST lifestyle sounds super sexy (and it is), but be prepared to bust your ass and work long days. For example, my longest day was 36 hours of continual patient care. So, as you digest all this, I applaud your desire to serve in the military. Should you find yourself in an FST down the road, I know you will love it. There is no other kind of unit I would like to be in. It's all medicine and no BS. Keep up with your schooling and yes, go for the ICU or ER jobs now if you really want to be an FST nurse down the road. As for the Navy, the only thing comparable is an FRSS (Forward Resuscitative Surgical System) which is an 8 man team. The Air Force doesn't have much for forward surgery on the conventional side (although the AF spec ops has specialized forward surgical teams, but they are much smaller than an army FST). I hope all of this info helps you out down the road. Good luck and maybe I'll see you down range someday. Take care.

    FST6 - Custos Vulnerati

    P.S. To olderthandirt2, Army nurses do serve at level 2 facilities (FSTs), as do CRNAs.
  6. by   olderthandirt2

    [/I]P.S. To olderthandirt2, Army nurses do serve at level 2 facilities (FSTs), as do CRNAs.[/QUOTE]

    You are so right.....I stand corrected........I am sitting next to a "prior" CO from an FST, now attending USAGPAN (in my class)......

    Just goes to show, you can't always believe what your instructors tell you !

    p.s. we just learned how to assemble and use the drawover anesthesia machine......specificly for field use