What is a Military Nurse?

A military nurse assists soldiers, military personnel, civilians, and patients within the military and U.S. populations.

These specialists operate at various branches throughout the military, including the Air Force, the Army, and the Navy.

As a result, they operate in various military and Navy departments throughout the United States.

Military nurses perform the same functions and duties as civilian nurses, regardless of their department or designation.

What Do Military Nurses Do?

Military nurses perform numerous duties to provide adequate care to military personnel and civilians.

These healthcare professionals complete many of the same responsibilities as traditional registered nurses.

However, they also receive combat training and education on managing various combat injuries and emergencies.

It includes monitoring vitals, reviewing medical histories, administering medications, and using various equipment.

They also utilize medical equipment, dress wounds, perform triage, and conduct health screenings and check-ups.

Military Nurse Responsibilities:

  • Gather patient data
  • Monitor patient vitals
  • Perform minor procedures
  • Examine medical histories
  • Utilize various medical equipment
  • Dress wounds and remove stitches
  • Conduct screenings and check-ups
  • Assess the patient’s medical condition
  • Administer medications and treatments
  • Observe and interpret medical symptoms
  • Update medical records and documentation
  • Evaluate patients throughout their rehabilitation
  • Collaborate with physicians, nurses, and surgeons

During screenings/, military nurses determine whether soldiers return to the field to perform their duties effectively.

They also help injured or ill personnel recover using state-of-the-art medical treatments, interventions, and procedures. 

Lastly, military nurses assist service physicians, nurses, and other experts with various medical and administrative duties.

Work Schedule

Military nurses can be on-duty full-time or part-time.

Their schedules vary based on their position, title, and military status.

For instance, full-time deployed nurses work morning, noon, and night shifts to ensure personnel receives proper care.

These specialists operate Monday through Sunday and on holidays.

Like traditional hospitals and urgent care centers, military personnel requires medical assistance 24/7.

Schedules may vary based on the assignment, status, current circumstances, and other factors.

Military nurses in the reserves may operate within set blocks of time (ex., working the last 5 – 7 days of every month).

They may also work as part-time or as on-call military nurses.

Nonetheless, the example above is only for demonstration purposes.

It doesn’t wholly reflect the hours a full-time, part-time, or reserve military nurse will likely work.

Occupational Settings:

  • Military departments
  • Navy branches
  • Air force units
  • Civilian locations

Where Do Military Nurses Work?

Given the nature of being in the military, military nurses operate in numerous settings.

However, unlike most professions related to civilian nursing, a military nurse may work in a variety of different locations.

It includes military clinics/care centers or hospitals, makeshift military facilities, or hostile environments.

They also operate onboard military aircraft, in government facilities, and on special deployments.

Occupational Settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Military clinics
  • Makeshift military facilities
  • V.A. medical centers
  • Onboard military aircraft
  • Hostile environments/combat zones

Military nurses mobilize relatively quickly when deployed throughout their country and other countries.

It enables them to provide immediate medical assistance anywhere they’re needed.

Military nurses typically have more autonomy than civilian nurses in local hospitals or healthcare centers.

These specialists must act quickly and decisively when soldiers or military personnel need immediate medical assistance.

Sometimes a physician cannot assist soldiers/military personnel with life-threatening or severe conditions in the field.

As a result, military nurses revive extensive training to provide sufficient field/combat medical care and aid.

It includes triaging patients, prioritizing care, providing emergency interventions, and performing minor procedures.

Position and Specialization

Like in other military branches, military nurses operate and are often judged by rank.

As a result, their rank typically determines their role and duties and how soldiers and colleagues treat them.

A military nurse’s work performance generally determines the rank they earn.

Therefore, improving career performance, execution, commitment, and discipline can increase their rank and status.

Lower-ranking military nurses often look up to military nurses with higher ranks.

They are also highly respected by their colleagues and favorably sought after by other leaders and physicians.

Those who leave the military with excellent training and status move into diverse healthcare areas in civilian populations.

Military Nurse Benefits

Military nurses often sign a three-year minimum commitment to serve their country.

However, they receive numerous benefits to reward their loyalties and pledges to the country.

It includes student loan repayments, housing stipends, pensions, healthcare benefits, life insurance, and other incentives.

Occupational Incentives:

  • Sign-on bonuses
  • Student loan repayments
  • Housing stipends
  • Life insurance
  • Paid sick leave
  • Paid annual vacations
  • Retirement benefits and pensions
  • Health benefits (medical and dental)
  • Veteran Administration (V.A.) programs
  • Low-cost or free medical care
  • Individual state benefits
  • Extensive career training
  • Thrift savings plan
  • Military discounts
  • Free training

In addition to the benefits military nurses receive, they obtain an excellent education, training, and hands-on experience.

It enables these healthcare professionals to find high-paying registered nursing careers after leaving the military.

How to Become a Military Nurse

Becoming a military nurse is straightforward and similar to becoming a civilian registered nurse.

Aspiring military nurses must join a nursing program, obtain a BSN, pass the NCLEX-RN, and gain career experience.

The primary difference between registered nurses in a hospital and those in the military is what they do after getting licensed.

Registered nurses with a BSN and valid license must go through an enlistment process to become military nurses.

Comparatively, those who wish to work as registered nurses in the civilian healthcare system must apply for local or state jobs.

The following section provides an overview of the steps aspiring military nurses must satisfy to operate in this field.

1. Join a Nursing Program

The first step to becoming a military nurse is to join a nursing program.

To enter the program, students must complete multiple nursing school prerequisite courses.

They must also maintain a good grade point average (GPA) to meet college/university requirements.

It ensures students have sufficient knowledge to pass the nursing program classes satisfactorily.

It also helps nursing schools determine which candidates to accept.

Gaining entry into the nursing program can be challenging due to limited seating and intense competition.

As a result, many students apply to multiple programs to maximize their acceptance odds.

2. Obtain a BSN Degree

Students who successfully enter the nursing program must obtain a Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.

The BSN program takes roughly 36 – 48 months to complete.

It provides graduates with comprehensive nursing education to enter entry-level jobs within various specializations.

The U.S. Military regards military nurses as commissioned officers.

As a result, obtaining an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is inadequate to become a military nurse.

Numerous nurses obtain a two-year ADN degree to enter the field quickly and take online classes to obtain their BSN.

It enables them to gain valuable work experience and earn an income while furthering their education.

Nevertheless, some nursing students complete the ADN program in as little as 18 months!

3. Pass the NCLEX-RN

Nursing school graduates must pass the NCLEX-RN to obtain licensure.

Obtaining licensure enables them to pursue diverse careers as licensed registered nurses.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing administers the NCLEX exam.

It tests the competencies of graduates to ensure they have adequate training and expertise to work in entry-level nursing jobs.

4. Gain Career Experience

Registered nurses may seek work after passing the NCLEX-RN exam and satisfying other state requirements.

Obtaining 1 – 3 years of career experience and hands-on training is highly beneficial, especially in acute/critical care.

It enables registered nurses to learn the ins and outs of direct care and feel confident with their careers.

Nevertheless, some registered nurses pursue enlistment directly after obtaining licensure.

Numerous military branches enable qualified registered nurses to join with limited or no career experience. 

However, consulting a recruiter to determine the military requirements is advantageous. 

5. Enlist / Get Recruited

The final step to becoming a military nurse is to enlist in the military.

It’s highly beneficial for registered nurses to consult a military recruiter for assistance.

They’ll help nurses meet eligibility requirements, determine a military branch, and proceed through recruitment.

As previously mentioned, the Military, Air Force, Army, or Navy may offer student loan repayments for qualifying nurses.

It enables them to pay off student debt throughout their military careers.

The military may also provide a sign-on bonus, housing, a housing stipend, relocation options, and healthcare coverage.

These incentives reduce expenses, help nurses move to a new location, and make transitioning into the military easier.

What Skills do you Need to be a Military Nurse?

Military nurses require numerous skills to perform their duties effectively and efficiently.

It includes critical thinking, communication, decision-making, and leadership.

Each skill is vital to coordination, patient care, and the effectiveness of medical care.

The following section explores each aptitude to provide a more comprehensive overview of a military nurse’s skillfulness.

Critical Thinking

Military nurses must utilize critical thinking to manage unexpected assignments and medical emergencies.

Critical thinking requires open-mindedness, hands-on, technical and academic knowledge, and good problem-solving skills.

Those who can simplify challenges and execute effectively maximize their team’s ability to act quickly and provide exceptional care.


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Decision Making

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As a leader, military nurses must remain calm under pressure

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