Published Jul 29, 2009
I am interested in becoming a nurse in the army, but I still have a few questions such as:
What are the hours the nurses work? Since it is salary pay do they work more than 40 hours a week? Do they get to decide days or nights or do they do both? Do you get to put a preference in for what days you want off? Is it easy to put time in for your vacation? Is it likely I will get deployed right away (I am coming in as a graduate nurse-no real experience yet)? Are those who precept you, helpful or do they wish they did not have to do it?
I have young children...about how much is daycare costs on the base? If I have to work nights, does anyone have advice for childcare options during the night.
When do you know what station you will be at after officer training? Are you likely to get whatever you request?
Any advice would help. Thanks.
Any answers to any of my questions would help a lot. I would like a better understanding of what I am getting myself into before I commit to it. Can anyone please help?
athena55, BSN, RN
First off welcome to AN. Next, you need to speak with a Health Care Recruiter in your home state/town.
Once you are a Commissioned Officer and are assigned to a MEDCEN:
You will work 40 hours per week. Oftentimes you will be required to come in on days off (say if civilians called in sick or there is a MASCAL situation) BUT temper that with the fact that if the unit is "slow" you maybe given administration time or be placed "on call" i.e., the day or night off. You are in the Military so you are always "ON CALL" you will get paid a straight salary of 40 hours/week despite if you were called in or stayed late: no such thing as "paid" OT for Military.
Most MEDCENS will have their Military rotate between day and night shift. My MAJ/HN allowed me to stay on 12 hour nights since I am a "night owl" smile!
Yes you can request Annual Leave Time (vacation) or RDO (requested days off) But remember, once you Commission the Government "owns" you. You can't just decide to "take off" if you have 2 or 3 days off in a row. You will be required to ask for a 4 day pass, keep your cell phone on (24 hour call) and usually not travel more than 250 miles outside your home post/station without permission and without filling out a DD31 and having it approved.
Everything is according to the "Needs of the Army/Air Force/Navy"
As for when you will be deployed: if you are a spanking brand new nurse you will have to graduate from OBC and usually work at least 12 months, get some experience under your belt, so to speak, before you are considered deployable.
I don't know anything about child care on post.
You need to speak with a Health Care Recruiter.
Good luck in your future decisions!
Thank you so much. You have been the biggest help in this whole process. I have been speaking to recruiters: my husband's recruiter and my healthcare recruiter. They seemed not to know much about the details of the nursing life/work. I am so excited about joining...I wish I could start already. What cities/bases have you been to? Anything you recommend or any place I should watch out for or are they all pretty much the same. How are the nursing work environments (nurses with other nurses, nurses with physicians, etc.) Thanks for all your help.
Military nursing is not for the faint of heart. It takes a different type of person to commit to the lifestyle and discipline -- the possibility of kissing your spouse and kids goodbye one day and not seeing them for a long long time -- and yes -- placing yourself in harm's way.
During peace time, military nursing is very much like civilian nursing -- except you are under an obligation that might seem very strict for some. You are assigned to where the military needs you -- not where you want to be. Yes -- we fill out "wish lists" but there is no guarantee that you will get your first choice -- your second choice -- or even your third choice. The military also decides what career path you will take if you enter right out of school with no specialty experience. You might have your heart set on being a pediatric nurse but if the military has needs in another area -- sorry about that chief........ The needs of the military come first -- whether it is for the long term or short term. Personal choices come last.
You asked about the shifts -- but they can vary. One hospital might run 12 hour shifts while another runs 8 (what most nurses don't realize -- it takes more civilian nurses to staff a hospital doing 12 hour shifts than it does 8). Since the hospitals staff with a combination of military nurses and civilian nurses -- and the civilian nurses have "rights" (no more than 80 work hours in a 2 week span without extra compensation) -- it can be the military nurses who make up any staffing short falls. You might be home -- up to your eyeballs in laundry on your day off and the phone rings. "We need you to........" There is no -- "It's my day off." or "I don't have a babysitter." You put on your uniform and report to work as directed. There is no guarantee that you will get x number of days off per week -- no guarantee that you will get x number of holidays off per year -- and no guarantee that you will get your 30 days leave per year when you want it. Now the senior leadership works very hard to make sure people are treated fairly -- but the needs of the military come first before all else.
Now you asked about child care. Altho child care on military installations can be provided in 2 ways -- the official Child Development Centers and the regulated in home providers -- there is no guarantee that a slot will be available for the hours you need. Finding child care for nurses working night shift can be almost impossible. And since military nurses tend to rotate shifts -- again due to the needs of the military -- what you have arranged today might not be what you need tomorrow. It is much easier when you have a support system within the home -- whether it is a spouse or a reliable family member -- but if you live on post there are regulations as to who can live in quarters with you and for how long. If you live on the economy -- off post -- there are more options -- but whether or not they will fill your needs is another question.
From reading your post, I first got the impression that you were a single parent. I see now that you would be part of a dual military team. Being dual military in the military is not an easy task. There are regulations that must be adhered to -- workable Family Care Plans that must be submitted -- and repercussions that happen if things fall out of place. Yes, there have been many dual military parents that have made the military a career and have been successful at it -- but there have also been those who find juggling children and 2 careers in the military too stressful. And altho the military will attempt to assign you to the same installation -- it doesn't always work out the way you think -- especially as you go up in rank. There will be a point where you will have to make a decision -- separate the family temporarily for the good of one parent's career -- or one parent leaves the military.
Deployments happen -- when is the luck of the draw. Each branch of the service have different deployment schedules -- some more frequent -- some longer. My son is on his 4th tour in Iraq -- but he is an Army grunt. My nephew -- AF -- has also been to Iraq 4 times but his total time in country does not even match 1 of my son's tours. I was in the military 19 yrs before I was deployed overseas -- but I have friends who retired after 30 yrs in service that never left the states! I know of others who have a tee shirt for every blip on the radar over the past 30 years.
How you will live and work while on deployment depends on the service you pick. Back in the mid 90's, I was at a joint military conference and listened to several AF nurses complaining about the primitive conditions they lived under during Desert Storm. It took a great deal of control to stop laughing out loud. They thought they had it bad because they had to share a bathroom! I thought back to the screened in latrines with the 55 gallon drums that we had to stir and burn up in the desert lololololol Later at the same conference I met a Navy nurse who had been assigned to a hospital in Bahrain during the same time frame. She stayed in a 4 star hotel!!!!!!!!!!
If you are into creature comforts -- do NOT go Army!!!!!!!! I have absolutely no problem sleeping on the ground -- or in a tent -- so the Army was my bag. But I know of nurses who would freak out if they had to shave their legs while controlling the water in the shower with a tent stake -- especially if that water was ice cold or ran out before they were finished lololol And the living quarters while on deployment can vary according to where you are and when you arrive. Heck -- if you arrive after the AF there will most likely be a swimming pool available lolololol
Thanks for the advice/info Iworecords. You have definitely given me a different perspective on how to look at the army. It still seems like something I want to do, but instead of my kids coming with me...I am probably going to have to leave them with my husband back in our hometown where he will have family support. Once again...Thanks
Leaving your husband and children behind is an option -- BUT -- since you are married bringing them to your first and subsequent duty stations -- if he does not go into the service himself -- is another option.
I do have a question -- what level of nursing education do you have? All the services require a BSN for commissioning on Active Duty. Now in the Army, an Associate Degree RN can ENLIST. They go to Basic Training then off to AIT -- and perform their duty as an enlisted member of the service (big difference between Officer and Enlisted). There are programs that they can apply for once in the service where they can complete their BSN on the Army's dime -- but acceptance into those programs are very competitive. Not all who apply get a slot. They can also complete the requirements for a BSN thru a local program -- but with rotating shifts that can be very difficult. Taking correspondence courses thru an accredited program -- such as the U of Maryland -- getting their BSN and then applying for commissioning is another option. Many a recruiter -- to get you to sign on the dotted line -- will tell you its guaranteed -- but it isn't. About 10 yrs ago there was an IG and subsequent Congressional investigation started by a group of Army NCO RN's who had applied for commissioning and were turned down. Turned out none of them read the fine print.
I have my BSN, and have completed and passed my NCLEX. The recruiters are telling me I can go in with direct commission, spend a year probably doing med/surg, and then pick one of four specilaty areas to go in. Is that not true? Unfortunately, my husband does not want to leave his current job for a long time because he likes his job and he will lose senority if he leaves for long periods of time. Currently he is a Houston police officer. People are telling him as a military spouse he can get help getting a job if he traveled around with me, but the process to get in where he is now was so long...he doesn't believe that being a police officer in other cities would be any different and when he does get in ...it then may be time to move again. I can't force him to change his career...we just have to support each other with what we both want to do with our lives. The route he decided was to go enlisted reserves, join ROTC (where he is undeployable until he finishes school), then do his time as military police reserves...and then if he gets pulled in active he wouldn't mind so much. I hope we can manage and make everything work out okay...I will probably sign up for the minimum number of years and if i enjoy the army reenlist if i dont then i will get out. My husband is afraid that i'm gonna like it and make a twenty year career out of it...but i remind him that i want to do so much with my nursing career that i dont think i will be able to do it all if i stay in the military...i have a lot of goals in life and i am just started out...checking one thing off at a time.
Off the subject...I read some of your stories on the other military forums...loved them.
Think long and hard before you purposely break up your family to fulfill a dream. We all have dreams but not all come to pass. Many times what we think we want -- when we get it -- is not what we thought it would be -- and we wish we could go back and change things. When you join the military, you sign a contract -- and "Uncle" will hold you to that contract even if 2 months or 6 months down the road you decide you have made a mistake.
As for your husband being non-deployable due to being in ROTC -- right info yet wrong info. He must be looking into the Simultaneous Membership Program. There are stipulations within that program that he must adhere to -- such as being enrolled in a full time college program which he might or might not be able to do while holding down a full time job as a cop.
Do your homework -- sleep on it -- do more research -- discuss the ramifications if you do not get Fort Sam or Fort Hood for your assignment after OBC -- which I bet you were thinking of because they are a quick 3 hour trip home on your days off. If you can comfortably accept the possibility of being away from your children for 2-6 yrs -- or having them separated from their father for that length of time -- think about it again.
Now you could consider the Reserves. That way you could have the best of both worlds......................
traumaRUs, MSN, APRN
My husband and I did the joint military thing: it is heartbreaking to make a Family Plan when you know that you have to sign over custody of your children in the event you are both deployed. In the military:
1. You can't call in "sick" when your kids are ill.
2. You serve the military and their needs come first, not your spouses, not your children.
3. You go where you are sent, when you are sent.
It was an okay life but certainly not an easy one.
I can also speak to separations: we have been married 29 years, 15 of those while we were in the miltary. It is hard on even a good relationship to live separately.
Currently, dh and I live 160 miles apart due to a job situation. We have been doing this for 1 year and we have at least 4 more years to go. We make it work but only because we have been married for a long time, have no kids at home and we are both pretty independent.
Again, being joint military is not for the faint of heart. Make sure you have back-up, back-up, back-up child care options and not just for your 12 hour shift: you can literally work 12 hours and then be told you have other duties to do also or that you will deploy in 48 hours.
I believe there are many potential military nurses who are blinded by the offer of a large bonus -- the promise of a rosey lifestyle -- the guarantee of future education -- etc -- who are then caught off guard when reality hits. Those of us who "have been there -- done that -- have the tee shirt to prove it" most likely would do it over again -- I know I would -- but don't want some unsuspecting nurse to jump in with both feet only to find out that they are going to sink and not swim.
There are some nurses who are made for the military -- and some who aren't. There are nurses who would flourish in AF nursing but not Army nursing -- and some Army nurses who would go bonkers if they had to do Navy nursing. Altho we are all cut from the same cloth we don't fit the same mold.
I am sitting here wondering how a recruiter can sleep at night after he has filled a young nurse's head with all the good stuff -- to the point that she is contemplating leaving her husband and family!!! Yes -- maybe we will miss out on a good nurse -- but how good would she be if after 6 months she is crying because she cannot tuck her kids into bed -- or that she missed their first step.................
carolinapooh, BSN, RN
Hi:First off welcome to AN. Next, you need to speak with a Health Care Recruiter in your home state/town.Once you are a Commissioned Officer and are assigned to a MEDCEN:You will work 40 hours per week. Oftentimes you will be required to come in on days off (say if civilians called in sick or there is a MASCAL situation) BUT temper that with the fact that if the unit is "slow" you maybe given administration time or be placed "on call" i.e., the day or night off. You are in the Military so you are always "ON CALL" you will get paid a straight salary of 40 hours/week despite if you were called in or stayed late: no such thing as "paid" OT for Military.Most MEDCENS will have their Military rotate between day and night shift. My MAJ/HN allowed me to stay on 12 hour nights since I am a "night owl" smile!Yes you can request Annual Leave Time (vacation) or RDO (requested days off) But remember, once you Commission the Government "owns" you. You can't just decide to "take off" if you have 2 or 3 days off in a row. You will be required to ask for a 4 day pass, keep your cell phone on (24 hour call) and usually not travel more than 250 miles outside your home post/station without permission and without filling out a DD31 and having it approved.Everything is according to the "Needs of the Army/Air Force/Navy"As for when you will be deployed: if you are a spanking brand new nurse you will have to graduate from OBC and usually work at least 12 months, get some experience under your belt, so to speak, before you are considered deployable.I don't know anything about child care on post.You need to speak with a Health Care Recruiter.Good luck in your future decisions!
Athena - I'm AF Blue (as I know you know!), but I had to let you know how much you rock my socks - you and Iworecords are amazing sources of information for the Army hopefuls!
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