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RN to Air Force

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by joepro7 joepro7 (New) New

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Hello Everyone,

I am in the process of putting together my packet for the selection board to become a RN in the Air Force- hopefully ready for January deadline, if not, then later in the year. I have 3 years ER experience (my hospital currently does not have a trauma designation), and will be 2 years cardiac cath lab experience by the time my packet would be up for review. I have a few initial questions.

1) I understand my ER experience basically does not count towards ER experience since I work at a rural non-trauma designated hospital but does count towards overall nursing experience. Does this basically entail that my only initial option in the Air Force is for a clinical nurse position (Med-Surg RN)

2) When i mentioned cath lab to my recruiter, she said there might be something there. From the research I have done, I have not heard of cath lab positions in the Air Force. Any input?

3) Is there anything I can do in the next 6-12 months other than get a new job to give me a chance to be commissioned into a specialty nursing position? (ex. CEN, CCRN, ect.)

4) Can someone explain an "accession bonus"? 

5) As of right now, my goal would be to get back to a critical care position, ICU, Trauma ER, Flight, etc. I am not totally shooting down the med-surg option because honestly, I probably could use the experience because I have never had a true inpatient position (ER and cath lab as I mentioned). So what are your experiences or what have you heard as being a clinical med surg nurse in the Air Force?

6) My number one goal would be to advance as an officer in the Air Force, more than advance my career as a nurse, if that makes any sense. Basically, do i have to become an advanced practice nurse (CRNA, FNP, etc.) in order to rank up to say at least Major?

7) Lastly for now, i'm confused as to which base I could possible be stationed at since its my understanding that not all AF bases have hospitals. Which ones would be options and what are your opinions of best/worst AF bases to work at as a nurse/medical personnel. 

Thank you in advance to everyone for your time. 

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wtbcrna is a MSN, DNP, CRNA and specializes in Anesthesia.

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1. I’m not sure what the exact qualifications are to get your ER identifier with civilian experience in the AF.

2. There are catholic lab RN positions at some AF hospitals, but most are filled by civilian nurses and there is no specialty code for a cath lab nurse in the AF, which means you may work there but you’ll still be considered a clinic/med-surg nurse.

3. The AF won’t take less than 2 years experience to qualify for any speciality. 

4. The ascension bonus is just a hiring bonus. You can also get a certification pay for having your CEN or CCRN.  https://www.dfas.mil/militarymembers/payentitlements/Pay-Tables/HPO1.html

5. I think you have a reasonable chance to get a ER position with your experience and the shortages in ER. It will depend if you get the speciality code and your chief nurse.

6. Becoming a Major is almost guaranteed right now and has nothing to do with advanced degrees or being an APRN. The AF actually has a poor record of promoting APRNs unless they get out of advanced practice.

7. I couldn’t find the list, but these are the ones you can go to as an ER nurse off the top of my head:Langley, Andrews, Wright Patterson, Eglin, Keesler, BAMMC, USAF Academy, Nellis, Travis, Elmendorf; overseas: Lakenheath, Landstuhl, Aviano, Misawa, Yokota. There are also a couple of overseas bases you can for 1 year unaccompanied assignments.

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jfratian has 7 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in ICU.

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The AF absolutely takes ICU and ER nurses with less than 2 years experience; the requirement to join as a specialty nurse (ICU, ER, OR, etc) is 1 year full time experience.  In fact, I have a O-1 that just joined us as an ICU nurse with 18 months of ICU experience.

And yes, pretty much any bedside AF nurse who is staying out of trouble is making Major right now; you don't need a master's either for it.  Lt Col is usually the hard one, and it does require as master's degree.

And also know that DHA (the umbrella organization for military healthcare) has started opening certain bases to all 3 branches for next cycle.  Eventually, I suspect any military medical person will be able to go to any Army, Navy, or AF base with their medical specialty assigned to it.

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jfratian has 7 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in ICU.

1,352 Posts; 12,097 Profile Views

Your experience is a bit dicey...not sure if it will count.  It will be up to the ER nurse consultant (who is a Lt Col who will interview you) whether or not your experience qualifies.  If it doesn't, I'd recommend you wait a year and apply when you've worked at a big trauma center.  I did med-surg in the military, and you are really treated like a child there.  Plus, you can't just cross train locally.  You have wait 2 years after you get to your first base to go to an ER/ICU nurse course across the country.

Yes, CEN and TCRN are both very valued certs and would help you.

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wtbcrna is a MSN, DNP, CRNA and specializes in Anesthesia.

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19 minutes ago, jfratian said:

The AF absolutely takes ICU and ER nurses with less than 2 years experience; the requirement to join as a specialty nurse (ICU, ER, OR, etc) is 1 year full time experience.  In fact, I have a O-1 that just joined us as an ICU nurse with 18 months of ICU experience.

And yes, pretty much any bedside AF nurse who is staying out of trouble is making Major right now; you don't need a master's either for it.  Lt Col is usually the hard one, and it does require as master's degree.

And also know that DHA (the umbrella organization for military healthcare) has started opening certain bases to all 3 branches for next cycle.  Eventually, I suspect any military medical person will be able to go to any Army, Navy, or AF base with their medical specialty assigned to it.

Just one clarification: It does not take a Masters or advanced degree to make LtCol in USAF in fact the promotion board and all OPRs are not allowed to have anything about advanced degrees on them until you get to your O-6 board. I have known several LtCols who have made it without  an advanced degree. It used to be that we had to have an advanced degree to promote but the AF changed that a few years ago.

I am glad to hear that the AF is allowing the speciality nurses to come in again with only 1 year of speciality experience. The last I heard you couldn’t get your identifier until you had 2 years of civilian speciality experience.

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Thank you guys for the feedback. I've heard of a course for ER/ICU training. Where is this offered at? I'm actually leaning towards going into ICU, despite my ER background. As of right now, my eventual goal would be to go to CRNA school but I'm open to any other doors the Air Force may open for me. Like i said, I'm trying to not make myself shy away from med-surg. I want to be an Officer/Airman first so whatever I have to do to be that, I'll do. I just want to make sure I know all my options and have as much knowledge as I can before the time may come to commit. 

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wtbcrna is a MSN, DNP, CRNA and specializes in Anesthesia.

1 Follower; 5,045 Posts; 52,541 Profile Views

1 hour ago, joepro7 said:

Thank you guys for the feedback. I've heard of a course for ER/ICU training. Where is this offered at? I'm actually leaning towards going into ICU, despite my ER background. As of right now, my eventual goal would be to go to CRNA school but I'm open to any other doors the Air Force may open for me. Like i said, I'm trying to not make myself shy away from med-surg. I want to be an Officer/Airman first so whatever I have to do to be that, I'll do. I just want to make sure I know all my options and have as much knowledge as I can before the time may come to commit. 

If your eventual goal is CRNA then you will have to go into ICU. The AF also offers a direct entry to CRNA school if you have at least one year of current critical care experience and meet all the other requirements. 

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jfratian has 7 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in ICU.

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The ICU training program is located in both Phoenix and San Antonio.  If CRNA is your ultimate goal, you'll delay your goal by about 3 years coming in as a med surg nurse.  That's how long it takes to attend the program and have enough time to apply/get accepted.

Edited by jfratian

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On 8/28/2019 at 11:04 PM, joepro7 said:

Thank you guys for the feedback. I've heard of a course for ER/ICU training. Where is this offered at? I'm actually leaning towards going into ICU, despite my ER background. As of right now, my eventual goal would be to go to CRNA school but I'm open to any other doors the Air Force may open for me. Like i said, I'm trying to not make myself shy away from med-surg. I want to be an Officer/Airman first so whatever I have to do to be that, I'll do. I just want to make sure I know all my options and have as much knowledge as I can before the time may come to commit. 

Hope I’m not too late here. Definitely treated like a child on a med surg floor. Absolutely do not come in as a med surg nurse especially with your background. I would think any ER experience would count because hell 99% of our ERs aren’t anywhere near a trauma center. I would push on that and really question / find it in writing that yours couldn’t count.

 

Note that if you come in as an ER or ICU nurse, they are very separate and you will be stuck with that identifier for a while because both are so critically manned. You can’t just pop from ER to ICU or cath lab etc. if you’re ER you are ER. Also some schools now take ER experience for CRNA so I wouldn’t sweat that too much.

 

Honestly, do not come in as med surg. You will have to do 1-2 years at your base before applying to the ER/ICU fellowship (6month long training with only 2-3 start dates a year), and then you will get to be an ER or ICU nurse (where you actually are one right now!) 

if you have your CEN you can get a retention bonus (for ER/ICU if you sign for 6 years it’s 35k a YEAR), if you take the ascension bonus (sign on bonus) you won’t be eligible for the retention until your original commitment is up.

Edited by Bratapfel

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jfratian has 7 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in ICU.

1,352 Posts; 12,097 Profile Views

Even though stateside military hospitals have typically very little patient acuity to speak of, AF ER and ICU nurses are still expected to be competent with all skills required to manage critically ill patients in a major civilian trauma center.  That is because many deployed settings require that nurses be able to manage an EVD, numerous drips, advanced ventilator settings, and CRRT.  I'm deployed right now and currently manage patients with all of the above.

Edited by jfratian

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12 Posts; 569 Profile Views

Thank you for the input Bratapfel!

I have heard the same thing from several people now about being treated like a child on a med-surg floor and appreciate the honesty. For several reasons, I have chosen to attempt to go in as clinical (med-surg). My recruiter, who I feel has been very upfront and on top of things, said I could try and push for ER if I really wanted to but I honestly did not want to get stuck in the ER. Not that I'm complaining at all if I worked in an ER, i just wanted to try something different and also I felt med-surg gave me the most options such as eventually going back to ER, or going ICU, or taking an administrative route. My number one goal is just to get in and be an airman. The CRNA goal is very up in the air for me, it is just something to work towards if I don't find another path I would enjoy more after I am in the AF.

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