Jump to content

NICU in Air Force


Hi everyone, just curious to know how nicu nursing in the Air Force compares to the civilian world. I currently have just over 6 months of experience in a level III nicu and have always planned on trying to go into the Air Force as a nicu RN once I get a year of experience.

What kind of scheduling is used?....I've heard panama schedule, but not really 100% sure how that works. What level nicu's does the AF have?....I know there are limited choices in terms of bases to choose from, and that's not an issue for me. How do deployments work?...do you deploy as a med surg RN? Do you float to other areas? NICU nursing in the Air Force seems to be a very small world...hopefully there is someone on here who has some experience with it! Thanks in advance!!

The biggest thing about joining the military is that they use you in whatever capacity they need to whenever and wherever you're needed. So while you may go in with an identifier that specifies that you're a trained NICU nurse, if you need to be floated or temporarily assigned to another area, that's a possibility. If you deploy, you'll see the full swath of patients, not just neonates. And typically, military RNs are schedule fillers in hospitals, so your schedule may never be "regular", especially if you go to a unit with staffing problems.

Neonatal Nurse - airforce.com

From what I can tell you from experience, the AF doesn't have many bases with NICUs, and the Army and Navy aren't much better. With all the base realignments (closing and merging bases) you may well end up at a joint base like Walter Reed-Bethesda or the like.


Specializes in ED. iCU, now add on PICU. Has 19 years experience.

I am ICU and worked the PICU at Joint base San Antonio, it also has a large and active NICU. You have very limited options as to where you can go in such a specialty. It can also limit your choices should you chose to pursue other career broadening assignment. That is not to discourage you, but to inform you ahead of time. When I floated to the NICU, they were nice and helpful. Lots of feeder growers. And some pretty sick ones (which they didn't give to a big icu nurse, lol). Sometimes the NICU nurse would floated to the Picu, but was rare, and we give the easier patients to the floaters.

Shifts. You can expect to work 7 12hr shifts every 2 weeks. Schedules vary as to how they are made but that is the number to expect. Most units rotate between night and day shifts - quarterly is common but not the rule.

Deployments. You can expect to deploy as a med/surg nurse. I'm not sure what else you are asking about deploying.

hope that helps some.

Thank you both for the responses, it helps a lot!! I'm fine with any base really, so being limited in choices is ok with me. From what I've researched, the AF has the most opportunities for NICU, so I'm sort of set on them vs the other branches. I also like that the AF has intercontinental transport capability for nicu, definitely something unique that you likely won't find anywhere else. The scheduling doesn't sound too different from where I'm at now...I don't think there are too many bedside nursing jobs that have regular schedules, so that's also something that I'm perfectly comfortable with. midinphx, that's all I really wanted to know about deployments...since there aren't many babies in most deployment situations, I wasn't sure how that's handled for a nurse who isn't used to taking care of adults. I wonder what the comfort level for nicu nurses is on deployments when they have to work as med/surg.


Specializes in ED. iCU, now add on PICU. Has 19 years experience.

I know a couple of NICU nurses who have deployed. Deploying has different challenges for everyone. Even experienced nurses face new experiences with the same kinds of patients we are expecting. The NICU nurses I saw on deployment performed and adapted in fantastic ways.

Honestly, the things that you will find hard when adjusting to military life are not the ones you are expecting, and probably can't plan for. So jump in! You can do it.

All rules are off when you deploy and the military uses you however they decide. I have deployed with NPs and L&D nurses who worked in the med/surg areas. Also, in the critical care we had nurses who had not cared for patients for years! These were desk 04s who really scared most of us - but eventually they caught on (as well as they could).

There is a saying, "bloom where you are planted". Wherever they place you do not complain and do your best. It makes life a little easier and opens doors down the road!!


Specializes in NICU. Has 2 years experience.

I just applied as a NICU nurse this last board. Didn't get selected because of lack of higher level experience. Hence I got another job because my ultimate goal is to be in the military. So I plan on applying again next October.

There are 4 NICU's in the Air Force...San Antonio, TX; Langley, VA; Ramstein AFB, Germany; and Okinawa AFB, Japan. All the NICU's are level capable. Germany and Japan do a lot of transports. And San Antonio is ECMO capable. I was told you do not deploy as a NICU nurse, that you deploy as a med/surg and/or ICU nurse and deployments are 6 months long. I think I was told that if you have enough time, you will float to a med/surg floor for a few weeks prior to deployment to help you get comfortable, but they said that always isn't possible because of lack of time.

I've done a lot of research on the AF NICU, so feel free to message me! :)

MsJacquese99, ADN

Specializes in Cardiac PCU.


I know that your last message was a long time ago, but did you every get into the military? :)