Looking for insight on military nursing!

Posted

Hey everyone,

I'm a labor and delivery nurse with 3 years of floor experience with my BSN. I'm considering joining the Air Force as a commissioned officer, and wanted to get some insight from those with some experience in this area. There are a lot of pros and cons to joining, and i have not talked to a recruiter yet because I am not looking to join for another year or so; I just joined our perinatal flight team and want to experience that for a while, and am getting married next year and would like to be married before commissioning.

I have a few questions/concerns and would love to hear any input you all may have.

1. Someone I know said her friend (granted she was Navy, not AF) worked the floor for only a short time before she was transitioned into doing exclusively administrative duties, and she worked around 80 hours per week. Is this something that may happen? I don't want to leave bedside nursing anytime soon, and want to maintain a good work-life balance as much as possible.

2. What bases do you know of where an OB nurse may be stationed? I know not all bases have hospitals.

3. I know this is a big "it depends", but how often can I expect to be deployed? What are the chances of going on a "short tour" (like to Korea, etc.)

4. If you are an OB nurse or any kind of nurse in the Air Force, what has your experience been like? Do you feel like you are still able to spend plenty of time with your family, and especially with your kids as they grow up?

5. What can I expect from COT?

6. I don't need exact numbers, but how does the pay compare to civilian nursing?

7. Were you able to get your student loans repaid? This is something that would be a huge perk for me.

8. As a commissioned officer, what length of time can I expect my commitment to the Air Force to be?

9. I have 3 years experience (will be 4 or 5 by the time I join), my RNC in inpatient obstetrics, and other relevant certs (NRP, STABLE, ACLS). I don't really want to do any other kind of nursing (med-surg, trauma, etc) although I would be open to clinic nursing. Do people often get placed in a completely different specialty?

10. How often do you PCS?

11. Do my years of experience as an RN count toward my rank upon joining?

I guess that's all for now. I know it's a lot! I really appreciate any advice you all may have and look forward to hearing your responses. I also appreciate any other input you may have including why you like/dislike military nursing, if you're happy with your choice to join, or anything else you think may be helpful as I make this huge decision.

Thank you!!

Meeshie

Meeshie

304 Posts

IF you google "commissioned officer air force pay" you can actually see the pay scale. It does not vary. It is what it is. You are paid based on your rank. Yes, you can be taken out of bedside. If you are an officer in the military you belong to the military - they control your career path and you do what they need you to do. No, your years as a nurse are not going to change what you go in as. Having a Masters vs a Bachelors might - it used to anyway.

Talk to a recruiter. They only take nurses in a few times a year. Even if you start the paperwork now it'll be at least six months to a year until you'd go in anyway.

obnurse406

obnurse406

17 Posts

Thank you for your reply!

jvanwoman

jvanwoman

74 Posts

Actually your years as a nurse do count toward your rank. You should check out the government/military nurse board instead of the general nursing. There is lots of good info on that board.

dianah, ASN

Specializes in Cath Lab/Radiology. Has 47 years experience. 9 Articles; 3,522 Posts

Moved to Government/Military Nursing forum

jfratian

jfratian, MSN, RN

Specializes in Adult Critical Care. Has 10 years experience. 1,509 Posts

You typically get 50% credit for civilian full time RN experience. With 4 years of experience, you would enter as a 1st Lt (O-2) instead of a 2d Lt (O-1). An MSN would bump you up about one rank.

OB nurses typically go to bases with hospitals, but most hospitals in the AF are fairly small (around 50 inpatient beds). If you accept a commission as an OB nurse, then they will use you as that for 2 assignments (2-4 years each).

You typically won't do any management until you become a Captain (O-3). That takes 4 years for someone who joins right out of school. Your friend probably came in with a lot of experience and started off as a Captain. Or, your friend is over-exaggerating what what additional duties entail. These include things such as infection control, scheduling, safety, etc that don't necessarily involve patient care. Everyone has to do a few of these in addition to their '14 to 16' 12-hour shifts per month. I would say they typically take a few hours extra per week. I challenge that anyone who says they are a nurse in the AF working 80 hours per week is either deployed or exaggerating. I would say 44 hours per week is a good ballpark.

Edited by jfratian

obnurse406

obnurse406

17 Posts

Thank you very much for your input!

jfratian

jfratian, MSN, RN

Specializes in Adult Critical Care. Has 10 years experience. 1,509 Posts

Or, your friend is over-exaggerating what what additional duties entail. These include things such as infection control, scheduling, safety, etc that don't necessarily involve patient care. Everyone has to do a few of these in addition to their '14 to 16' 12-hour shifts per month. I would say they typically take a few hours extra per week. I challenge that anyone who says they are a nurse in the AF working 80 hours per week is either deployed or exaggerating. I would say 44 hours per week is a good ballpark.

obnurse406

obnurse406

17 Posts

Thanks! I haven't actually been able to talk to this individual for her account of her experience, so I'm hearing this from a 3rd party. That's why I wanted to get some input more directly from the source! I appreciate your thoughts very much. She was in the Navy for a long time (is going to retire soon) so I'm sure she just ranked up enough to be in management. I wouldn't mind the extra duties you mentioned, as long as I still get to do some patient care. You mentioned if I commission as an OB nurse, I will do that for 2 assignments. What happens after that time frame?

Edited by obnurse406
Mistake

jfratian

jfratian, MSN, RN

Specializes in Adult Critical Care. Has 10 years experience. 1,509 Posts

Two assignments could take you as high as 8 years of service. Usually after your first assignment, people separate into various tracks.

Some go for master's/doctorate degree programs. These programs fall under AFIT, and allow you to go back to school for NP, CNS, CNM, or CRNA depending on your background.

Others choose to embrace management and become clinical supervisors and/or managers.

There are also clinical fellowships in critical care, trauma, flight, OR, psych, and NICU that you could apply to if you were tired of OB.

obnurse406

obnurse406

17 Posts

Thank you very much for your input jfratian! Your replied have really helped me feel more confident in my choice. I have started talking to a recruiter and am hoping I will be able to make this happen.

Guest1035265

Guest1035265

1 Post

Prior Service AF OB RN here

I served for 8 yrs, got out 10 years ago so no guarantees that on my part that things are the same.

I LOVED my time in the Air Force. It was a great experience, I'd do it again in a heartbeat (in fact I came here looking for advice about flight nursing--I just got word I've been accepted into the Air Guard)

First, the AF has to accept you--that means you have to pass all their requirements--basically, healthy, no legal issues, & the usual stuff for a job--good grades, references & interviews.

Next, you must accept there's a lot of unknowns that come with this job. "The needs of the military come first" and those needs are to meet the mission--to serve & protect. You'll be an officer first, a nurse second.

If you make the cut and want to be an OB nurse, you'll get tagged with an identifier as such. That has it's pros & cons--you'll know what nursing you'll be doing but it will also limit you to what assignments you can take. If they don't have OB, you can't go.

Your initial agreement will be for 3 or 4 years. When the end of that time is near, you'll let the AF know you either plan to stay in or are planning to separate. Agreeing to stay in means if you want to get out, you give them 6 months notice (this is different than enlisted)

You'll get asked to fill out a "dream sheet" for your base preferences & your first assignment will probably come from that. If you get out after 3-4 years, that will be your only duty station. If you stay in, then at the 3-4 yr mark, you'll do the dream sheet again for your next assignment.

You'll go to COT where you'll feel like you are on a small college campus. You'll take classes, learn military customs & courtesies, how to wear your uniform, shoot a gun, wear a gas mask, etc You'll meet a lot of super nice people who are likely to become lifelong friends. When COT is over, you'll go to your first duty assignment.

As for your actual AF job, you can get a pretty good idea just based on how many babies the hospital delivers. There's a huge range from alot (Lackland) to a few (Yokota). You'll be a bedside nurse for sure, no management. The only difference is if at smaller hospitals where there's more down time so you'll work on side projects that interest you (or at the request of your manager). Things like teaching a new parent class, developing an in service--nothing you'll find stressful. The most "managing" you'll do is directing the enlisted who work on your shift as your nurses' aid.

As for the deployment question. I wish I had a direct answer for that. We live in a very volatile world--the bottom line is that's what we are here for--to be in a position that makes us ready to deploy. You could get tapped because you are fresh blood, and then not because you are a needed OB nurse stateside & are relatively inexperienced.

Truly, the biggest deciding factor you should be considering about whether you join or not is the impact this will have on your future husband. The military is a HUGE marriage stressor, so if he's committed to you this decision is something he has to make with you as it will greatly influence his life. Let's say you get a great assignment, he has a great job--you both are loving life. Now it comes time to PCS. You get a new assignment & he gets the unknown for employment--having to look, & start over again--all on his own if he's a civilian that is.

I know you have more questions but I'll quit here since this is getting long. There's a lot of benefits to belonging to this club I haven't even touched on!