These nurses provide medical care for fellow soldiers in all branches of the US military, including Army, Navy, Air Force, as well as in the US Public Health service. Military nurses provide all aspects of traditional nursing care and practice in both peace- and war-time settings through various branches of the military service. Classifications include active duty, reserves, civilian employment, and employers include the U.S. government as well as contract agencies for civilian employment.

Duties of a Military Nurse

The important duty to understand in the military nursing profession is that military comes first and nursing comes second. With that said, the military provides an ideal environment for nurses to continue their education in their specialty and/or in leadership training. Unlike traditional warfare, current warfare offers a different nursing situation. There are fewer gunshot wounds and other typical military injuries and more land-mine injuries, injuries from car accidents and blast injuries. The majority of wounds tend to be to the extremities because of the use of body armor that covers the thoracic region with Kevlar and ceramic plates. Expect to work with shock trauma units and closely with other branches of the military while in the field.

When not on the front line or in the field, many military nurses are sent to school to upgrade their degrees at college campuses or through online courses. Additionally, nurses in the military could be assigned to research or teaching units to help other military nurses along.

Related Types of Nurses

Since military nurses are trained for leadership, including the use and knowledge of military weapons and combat leadership skills, a similar profession might include forensic nursing. And, while not all military nurses see front line action, their ability to deal with shock and trauma might prove similar to nurses who work in surgery, triage and hospitals. But, since nurses from all specialties are welcome in the military, many who leave this field might find leadership roles in their specialties if they leave the military for civilian life.

Military Nursing Degrees

Although individuals can enter the army and choose nursing, it helps to have a nursing diploma or certification already under the belt. For instance, RNs go into the Army through the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) or by direct commission after graduating from college. Usually, their first mission is not medical, as military aspects predominate. Instead, leadership training is instilled from the beginning, as military nurses have the opportunity to earn rank. Command schools and nursing management courses such as head nurse development and advanced nursing leadership are mandatory and every Army nurse begins with an Officers Basic Course, an immersion into military culture and standards. At the top level, senior nursing officers study leadership at the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, where issues range from military strategy to national security. This military discipline and leadership training bodes well for nurses who leave the military, as their exposure to such education can lead to leadership roles in the civilian nursing world. However, to stay in military service often means the ability to obtain higher degrees and rank and a decent retirement plan.