Unique situation, considering USAF

  1. Hi all,

    I'll soon be 45, and am about to graduate from the Radford University (Virginia) BSN program. I'm a USAF veteran (a Signals Intel Officer from 1984-88). The AF nursing recruiter is making me a *very* lucrative offer. Having had to take three years off of life for nursing school, and live on borrowed money for the whole time, things are going to be tight. The AF claims to be offering as much as $57k up front (bonus plus loan repayment), which would take a healthy bite out of what I owe. Walking in the door as a 4-year O-3 offers me a super salary, and based on thumbnail calculations, probably at least a 42% increase over what I'd be making with the job I've been offered locally on a thoracic surgical ICU. That would allow me to keep my current home (which I **REALLY** don't want to sell), as well as keeping up with the loan payments while still living a decent lifestyle. All that is good.

    My concerns are these:

    1. I'm really only interested in critical care (specifically ICU) nursing. My immediate goal is to get ICU experience to begin pursuing...

    2. Grad school. I want to get my CRNA (I have a background as a Licensed Veterinary Technician, and have been trained in and actually done surgical anesthesia on all kinds of animals). Will I be able to steer myself easily into an appropriate critical care setting to get this experience ASAP? I know there are no guarantees of anything in the military, but if I get an assignment to (say for instance) WPAFB, is there a severe enough shortage of critical care RN's to allow me to get in pretty easily to whatever kind of unit I'm interested in? By graduation I'll have close to six months of solid ICU clinical experience, from a summer externship and a clinical practicum (medical/surgical ICU and CCU).

    3. Grad school - I know it's handled through AFIT. How hard or easy is it to get a fully funded slot? I can't afford to pay for CRNA school myself anytime soon. I need to get the AF to pay for it, and to pay me my salary while I attend. I have excellent grades, am motivated, and will have no trouble jumping through all the requisite hoops to get in. I just want to know how big the hoops are, and how far they are off the ground, etc.

    4. What are the odds that if I were to stay in after CRNA school (it would incur an additional 3-4 year additional commitment after graduation) that I can just be a clinician? I have zero interest in commanding anybody or anything. Been there, done that. I want to manage and command me and my patients. Do military nurses have to go to Squadron Officer School and ACSC and all that silly stuff?

    5. What are the other pitfalls I'm not seeing? I know very little about military (specifically USAF) nursing. I'm fairly comfortable about the military in general.

    6. What about deployments? Is the USAF deploying people to fun places like Afghanistan? I know that's part of the game, but what are the real odds? Especially for a newly minted RN with little practical experience under his belt?

    Any and all information will be most gratefully appreciated as I proceed toward my decision nexus on this. Graduation is in early May, and I need to move ahead smartly if I'm going to do it. I only have less than a 12-month window to get onto active duty (age stuff) without a waiver.

    Thanks all!

    Butch
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    About Imscray

    Joined: Mar '07; Posts: 11; Likes: 2

    13 Comments

  3. by   traumaRUs
    Wow - O-3 for a new grad! I was offered O-3 (and negotiated to O-4) with 15 years experience, 10 of that in a level one trauma center! I agree you should be questioning things...this does sound too good to be believed.
  4. by   Imscray
    I was an O-3 when I separated in 1988, so they have to take me back as an O-3. Sweet deal, especially considering I got exactly squat for my previous service (no VA benefits, no education benefits, nothing).
  5. by   traumaRUs
    Got it Butch - that makes sense then. I was enlisted before and got out in 1980 (I'm old!). Have played with the idea of doing some reserve time but I have family responsiblities and unsure what to do.
  6. by   medchick
    I am an AIr Force veteren who seperated in 2001. It is my experience that new grads do not usually get exposed to ICU when they first start out. The other problem is that so many facilities have downsized from hospitals to clinics. The recruiters here have been actively courting me but I got out due to orthopedic issues and did recieve benefits so it probably isn't worth it for me to go back. The choice is ultimately your. Good luck in your decision.
  7. by   Imscray
    Thanks Medchick. Interesting, since everything you read says you need a year's ICU experience to get an AFIT grad school slot for CRNA. If they plan to make me work med-surg for two or three years before I'm allowed into an ICU, then they can keep it. I can go to work on June in a brand new ICU doing ICU medicine, and using my ICU experience. I have no interest in quasi-sick-ish people who are there to milk the system. I like caring for really ill people and actually using my nursing and thinking skills. Passing pills and emptying Foleys isn't my idea of critical care nursing.
  8. by   Gennaver
    Hi Butch,
    The AF recruiter that I spoke with in December 06 and again in March has been a nurse recruiter for over 15 years.

    He was ethical in that he knew I was talking with the Army and didn' t make any attempts to derail that.

    He explained that there is difference between the Army and the AF in that the Army starts ALL new graduate nurses as a 2LT. All of them. The AF would still start me as a brand new graduate with the same rank but, that they would recognize or reward my entry level degree of MS much sooner than the Army would.

    He explained that all new nurses, (regardless of previous military service or level of education beyond BSN) start at 01. He said that they recognize years of service in the field as half and that a Nurse who has been a nurse in civilivan life for 10 years would be recognized as 5 years.

    I do not know how you will go in with advanced rank but, the bonus and benefits sound about right.

    The education is very competitive and takes several years in service and recommendations to qualify. I would ask to have what your recruiter is telling you, in writing.

    Gen
  9. by   Gennaver
    Quote from ButchVA
    I was an O-3 when I separated in 1988, so they have to take me back as an O-3. Sweet deal, especially considering I got exactly squat for my previous service (no VA benefits, no education benefits, nothing).
    Hi,
    Do you have that in writing? That for medical they will recognize your previous service for rank?

    Interesting. Well then, it sounds almost too good to be true.

    Good luck!
    Gen
  10. by   Gennaver
    Quote from ButchVA
    ...have no interest in quasi-sick-ish people who are there to milk the system. I like caring for really ill people and actually using my nursing and thinking skills. Passing pills and emptying Foleys isn't my idea of critical care nursing.

    ??

    Hmmm,
    Okay then, you might be mighty surprised Butch. You will be emptying foleys and doing direct hands on care of your cc patients. You will be passing medications too.

    I would imagine that your fellow soldiers and their loved ones who are in an AF medical-surgical ward would no more be "milking" the system than would you or I.

    Hope I see *you* coming if I am ever a patient under your care.
    (sorry, I am fingerwagging you just 'cause and figure that your comment comes across as much harsher than you reallymeant it).
    Gen
  11. by   wtbcrna
    Butch,

    I am an Air Force critical care nurse at Keesler AFB and will be attending CRNA school at USUHS this summer. As a new grad you are still several years (atleast three) away from being able to apply to CRNA school with the AirForce, if you send me an email address I will send you last years call for canidates for AFIT it will explain all the details.
    In general you have to have two years TOS before you even apply, and you need to have atleast one year critical care experience. Unless you come in with your ICU identifier, it would be next to impossible to go straight to ICU in the AirForce. The other thing to think about is mandatory retirement age and will you be able to meet that with your prior service time.
    On the positive side the pay, benefits, and workload are great!

    Good Luck! Let me know if you have any more questions.
  12. by   wtbcrna
    4. What are the odds that if I were to stay in after CRNA school (it would incur an additional 3-4 year additional commitment after graduation) that I can just be a clinician? I have zero interest in commanding anybody or anything. Been there, done that. I want to manage and command me and my patients. Do military nurses have to go to Squadron Officer School and ACSC and all that silly stuff?

    6. What about deployments? Is the USAF deploying people to fun places like Afghanistan? I know that's part of the game, but what are the real odds? Especially for a newly minted RN with little practical experience under his belt?


    The commitment is 4.5yrs after CRNA school. As far as being a Commander...toward the end of your career around 15-17yr mark you will see most CRNAs becoming Flight Commanders for anesthesia, but usually the dept is so small (less than 10 people) that is not something you do full time it is just an extra duty. As far as SOS and ACSC.......nice try....lol.......I am finishing up SOS right now. All PME for your rank has to be completed before you go to AFIT or to be seriously considered for your next rank.

    Deployments: Pretty much anywhere the Army goes anymore the AirForce medical people go.....Iraq, Afganistan, Qatar, Germany/Landstuhl, Kuwait etc....In the last few years the Air Force has placed a new empasis on deployment for medical personel.
    As a new grad/new to AirForce nursing it is usually atleast 6 months before you will deploy, but for ICU nurses we are usually placed into our deployment cycle as soon as we inprocess at our base.
  13. by   Duncan3178
    The AF recruiter that I talked to a couple of days ago said that you have to have a full year experience AFTER your NCLEX to count as any previous experience. If you do not, they count you as a new grad and you go in under the Nurse Transition Program. With this program, you choose either Med/Surg or OB. ICU comes after several years of Med/Surg nursing.

    I am prior AF, so know what goes on in the AF world. I know about being deployable, etc. The recruiter that I talked to was explaining about being deployable every 15 months. You are deployable for 3 months. If you group gets called up during that 3 months, then you go. If you do not get called up during those 3 months, you are not deployable for 15 more months. Has anyone else heard otherwise?

    I do know that many people asked questions about the CRNA program through the AF. The recruiter skirted around the issue. Lots of people want to do pursue that avenue, and there are few spots for it.
  14. by   wtbcrna
    Quote from Duncan3178
    The AF recruiter that I talked to a couple of days ago said that you have to have a full year experience AFTER your NCLEX to count as any previous experience. If you do not, they count you as a new grad and you go in under the Nurse Transition Program. With this program, you choose either Med/Surg or OB. ICU comes after several years of Med/Surg nursing.

    I am prior AF, so know what goes on in the AF world. I know about being deployable, etc. The recruiter that I talked to was explaining about being deployable every 15 months. You are deployable for 3 months. If you group gets called up during that 3 months, then you go. If you do not get called up during those 3 months, you are not deployable for 15 more months. Has anyone else heard otherwise?

    I do know that many people asked questions about the CRNA program through the AF. The recruiter skirted around the issue. Lots of people want to do pursue that avenue, and there are few spots for it.

    The recruiter gave you mostly correct information, but we no longer do 3 month deployments w/ 15month cycles. We are currently doing 4-6 month deployments, mostly 4 months, with an 18 month cycle. If you don't go during that AEF cycle...you can still be deployed in another cycle. They are not really supposed to do that, but they do it all the time to meet readiness needs.
    As far as the CRNA application goes it is thru AFIT and the best thing is to ask your healthcare recruiter for a copy of the last nursing call for canidates (it is about 50pgs long) and will explain pretty much everything you need to know about getting into CRNA/ graduate nursing schools/fellowships thru AFIT. There are generally around 20 slots per year for AFIT CRNA school, I have been in over 5yrs, and have yet to see them fill all the slots when their is 20 something seats available. Most people that apply just don't really meet the minimum requirements.
    If your ultimate goal is to come into the Air Force and apply to CRNA school then you should go into a large civilian ICU thru critical care residency course right after graduation and gain one year's experience as a new nurse/ICU nurse. About your 9-10 month point go talk to your AF recruiter, but make sure that he/she knows that you will not be coming on active-duty until after your one-year mark. At the one year point in ICU you will be able to come on Active-Duty with your ICU identifier, E designator, then you will be able to go directly into ICU in the AirForce. Now depending on what month you get to your new base, two-three years later you will be able to apply for a long AFIT slot.

    FYI: The AF recently changed time on station requirements for CONUS to CONUS moves it is now 4-4.5 years instead of three, and I think there was a resulting increase for CONUS to OCONUS also....3-3.5 years instead of two, but still 2yr TOS required at most OCONUS bases before you can reapply for reassignment.

    The whole process is complicated and the recruiters most of the time just do not know much about the medical/nursing field. Most recruiters come from the line side and have jaded view of what the medical field does.

    Good Luck! I hope this helps explain things a little better.

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