Seeking "a-day-in-the-life" from Military Nurses!

  1. To those RNs serving in uniform,

    I have scoured these forms, and the internet at large, and found very few first-hand-experience posts. Would any of you be kind enough to run through what a-day-in-the-life is like as a military nurse?

    Also, I'd appreciate a little backstory - why you joined, what you were looking for, what your civilian background was, etc!

    Thank you so much!
  2. Visit Capsaicin` profile page

    About Capsaicin`, BSN, RN

    Joined: Jan '14; Posts: 21; Likes: 5
    Specialty: ICU

    8 Comments

  3. by   Pixie.RN
    It's really not much different from civilian nursing unless you are deployed. Are you thinking of joining, or just curious?
  4. by   Capsaicin`
    Pixie, your deployment thread was eye-opening! Thank you so much for posting that.

    I am thinking of joining. Strong military tradition in my family. I sought service with healthcare, as an EMT then ICU RN, and am thinking more and more of military nursing. I am currently a travel RN, and really enjoy it, so Reserves may be the best fit for me. Did you transition to Reserves from AD?

    So far, the Navy sounded the most flexible - the recruiter promised I could drill at my own pace, and wouldn't even have to necessarily drill with my home unit. I am not sure how accurate this is, practically speaking.

    The Air Force recruiter made flight nursing sound like a real possibility, but it sounds very competitive based on the posts I've seen on this website.

    The Army recruiter really didn't have much insight at all, and I feel somewhat uninformed about this branch.

    Anyway, my main hold ups are not knowing what to expect, and my love of travel nursing!
  5. by   Have Nurse
    Quote from Pixie.RN
    It's really not much different from civilian nursing unless you are deployed. Are you thinking of joining, or just curious?

    I must smile and respectfully disagree with this. Having served in the military both as a medic and a nurse, a lot depends whether or not you are on "Active" duty v.s. serving in the Reserves. Either way, be prepared to take Nurses Basic training in addition to what you will do while in the military.

    As I was a L.P.N. at the time, I was enlisted.

    While R.N.s are considered officers, they still need some military training in addition to their nursing duties. It's a different world than being a civilian.

    We would "fall out for formation" at the beginning of our shift and at the end of our shift.

    It was during those times we were briefed on what the challenges of the day might be, along with any military mission updates.

    Not sure if they do things differently now, but I hope this helps at least a little bit.


    Best to you!
  6. by   Pixie.RN
    Quote from Have Nurse
    I must smile and respectfully disagree with this. Having served in the military both as a medic and a nurse, a lot depends whether or not you are on "Active" duty v.s. serving in the Reserves. Either way, be prepared to take Nurses Basic training in addition to what you will do while in the military.
    Did you ever serve as an RN? That is the experience I am speaking of that is similar to a civilian RN in day-to-day life. Officer basic is nothing like enlisted basic training, my husband (former Army medic) assures me. Lol

    P.S. RNs who commission aren't just "considered" officers, we are "actually" officers.
  7. by   Pixie.RN
    Quote from Capsaicin`
    Pixie, your deployment thread was eye-opening! Thank you so much for posting that.

    I am thinking of joining. Strong military tradition in my family. I sought service with healthcare, as an EMT then ICU RN, and am thinking more and more of military nursing. I am currently a travel RN, and really enjoy it, so Reserves may be the best fit for me. Did you transition to Reserves from AD?
    No, I was a direct commission into the active duty component. When I left active duty, I considered Reserves, but the closest unit that needed a nurse was about 5.5 hours from me and I had too much going on. In light of a subsequent pregnancy and then pregnancy-related heart failure, I am glad I opted to not join a Reserve unit. I still get emails from recruiters, and I politely reply that they wouldn't want me with my current cardiac issues.

    I commissioned as an ED/Trauma nurse, and my daily life usually consisted of working 12-hour shifts in the ED. As military officers we also had other "collateral duties," extra assignments that we had to complete. I was a SANE nurse and helped to fill the call schedule, that was probably my biggest collateral duty. But I also had to ensure that I met Army height/weight requirements, did PT (we did not have to do it with our unit, as officers we were expected to PT on our own, and I did!), and maintain military qualifications with weapons. But the day-to-day was not a lot different from any ER.

    One thing I will say: unless you are assigned to a larger hospital, patient acuity is typically lower in the Army than the civilian world. When I came home from Afghanistan, I picked up a PRN position at a local trauma center just to make sure I kept my trauma skills up. Our ED saw a high volume per day, but a lot of those visits were really because patients either couldn't or didn't make appointments with their assigned primary care providers in the family medicine or peds clinics. Our ICU ended up being converted to a step-down because we did not have the acuity for a true ICU.

    I have zero regrets where the Army is concerned. Great experience, with excellent benefits on the flip side too. I am taking full advantage of my GI Bill, as is my husband who is a med student. I also get VA care as a combat/disabled veteran, which has been pretty good so far.
  8. by   jfratian
    I don't fully understand whether you are looking at active duty (full time) or reserves (part-time). With active duty, you don't have any flexibility; you live where you are told to live. If reserves, you should look at what branches have reserve units that need nurses near you. Unless you really want to do flight nursing or go out on a mercy ship (Navy), I don't think reserves will be much different day-to-day regardless of the branch.
  9. by   Neats
    I joined as a 71L at the beginning. I never went to high school dropped out in 7th grade, went back to an alternative school, got my high school diploma and joined the Army. I went to college and became an Administrator and then nurse. I served in the Reserves as an Army Nurse and had good and bad experiences.
    I deployed on the ship Mercy (floating hospital) in the Sinai, came back to Germany in the reserves and worked as a office clinical nurse was transferred back stateside and worked at a military hospital evening shift as Administrator on Duty (what is now called Nurse Supervisor)

    I took care of active duty and family members, and retired military and their families back in the days of CHAMPUS.

    We saw a lot of Orthopedics form active duty and a variety of common diseases/injuries form anyone who had military CHAMPUS benefits.

    We were busy, at times stayed by the bedside as no one else was there for neonates, peds and adults. It was a duty, service and I am thankful I got to take care of many WWII vets. I would not change my early days for anything.

    I wore a white military uniform and sometimes we wore Battle Dress Uniforms (BDU's). My experience is pretty boring and any other deployments other than the ship Mercy was pitching a tent in the back of the hospital and pretending to be a MASH unit.

    Now my children are in the military and the medical care they receive scares me. No one takes reasonability to be an advocate for the military member and often times they fall through the cracks. It certainly is not what it use to be. With that said the military does offer some great orthopedic services and they continue to serve the military as best they can.

    I think bureaucracy has change those military healthcare services drastically and because in the military you are taught to choke it down and not cry out your medical issues are not fully addressed.

    Lastly with the world situation changing so fast and the roles of our military I see more National Guard and reservists being deployed more than ever as evidenced by my 3 children who are National Guard and Reservists. All have been deployed multiple times, some of their friends who are active duty have been somewhat stable at their assignments with occasional deployments. Active duty is keeping solders in place to save monies. My children lose monies with each AT or deployment as their civilian jobs pay way more than the military. They are getting out after more than 10 years of service. Only 1 is staying in for the long haul.
  10. by   jfratian
    I appreciate your perspective, but disagree on one point. I would respond that healthcare quality in the military has actually significantly improved in many areas over the years due to new technologies and the development of various continuous quality improvement projects for things like infection rates and patient satisfaction (just like in the civilian healthcare industry). Back in the day, none of that stuff was even tracked, let alone acted on. Military healthcare, and the healthcare industry in general, is objectively better than ever in many ways---not worse.

    The 'it used to be better back then' thing you are describing is a psychological phenomenon known as Rosy Retrospection. You tend not to notice things when you're younger; the things you do remember are subconsciously sugar-coated by your brain.

    I will concede that military healthcare will likely never be completely on par with civilian care, due to some inherent weaknesses. For example, the military model really doesn't keep experienced clinicians at the bedside. Nurses or technicians with more than a few years of experience are forced into management. Doctors are underpaid and as a result overwhelmingly do their 4 years and peace out. So, most of the people taking care of you are very green. However, those weaknesses haven't really changed over the years; that's why I don't agree with your statement.

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