If you are a current or former army medic seeking to put your experience to use in a civilian job, a career in nursing could be an excellent choice for you. Your military experience, medical training, and skills will transfer well into the medical field. However, there are likely going to be several challenges you will need to face and overcome.

Civilian life has many distinct differences compared to military life, and the nursing field is no exception. In order to achieve success as a civilian public health professional it is important to have a thorough understanding of the process of shifting from military service to civilian health care.

This article covers the steps you will need to take in order to make the transition from military medic or corpsman to nurse.

Putting Your Skills to Use

While on active duty, military medics develop several key skills that transfer well into the field of nursing. Some of the key skills that translate well into a career in nursing include:

  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Capacity to work in situations that are high-stress, high tension, high outcome environments
  • Time management
  • Organization
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership skills
  • Quick thinking
  • Ability to take direction
  • Adaptability

These skills will serve you well in a field in which lives are on the line and situations are in constant fluctuation. No two days are exactly the same in the healthcare field, so every day will likely be a new experience. Therefore, the skills you have acquired as a medic will be incredibly useful in this new position.

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Planning Your Transition

Making the shift from medic to civilian nurse will not be an easy one, so it is important to understand what you are getting into. The following steps will help you prepare for your transition and make the most of this new career opportunity.

1. Consider Your Goals

Before enrolling in a nursing program, spend some time thinking about the type of career that you’d like to have. It is important to establish career goals that can guide your decision. For example, consider whether you would like to work with a specific population or in a particular setting. Are your career aspirations taking you toward work in a hospital, a nursing care facility, a school, or somewhere else? There are an abundance of opportunities for nurses, so take the necessary time to think about what your goals are and how to achieve them.

2. Understand the Requirements

Depending on your goals, you may have different educational requirements. Once you have established your objectives and have some clear direction, look into the educational requirements in order to succeed.

For example, in order to become a registered nurse (RN) it’s typically recommended that you earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Other nursing careers, such as nurse practitioner, may require graduate level education like a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). And still other degrees might prepare you more directly for specific roles such as a MS in Occupational Therapy. Once again, beginning with your goals will then direct your subsequent educational pursuits.

Another factor you will want to research is the grade point average you will need to keep in order to maintain your nursing degree. Consider the certification requirements necessary as well, such as the NCLEX-RN exam which is required in order to become a registered nurse. Talking to an academic advisor or mentor who has been in your position can be an excellent way to gain insight into the requirements you need in order to succeed.

3. Find the Right Program

Once you have set your goals and developed a clear understanding of the educational requirements necessary to meet them, it is time for you to begin looking for a degree in nursing that meets your needs. In this search, it is important to ensure that you are aware of what each school's stance on the military is. For example, if you are applying for a public college or university, the Post-9/11 GI Bill® will likely cover any expenses you incur depending on how long you have served. However, private universities may not offer the same level of funding or support. Here are some questions to consider when looking for a nursing program that will be right for you:

  • Is the program military friendly?
  • Does the university have veteran’s support?
  • Is there a veterans department?
  • What are the financial aid options?
  • Are they a Yellow Ribbon school?

You may want to reach out to the financial aid office of the schools you are applying for in order to determine whether the financial aid options available to you are sufficient to cover your education. Begin researching what scholarships you may be eligible to apply for. You may also want to consult with your peers to gain an understanding of what their experiences were and what their recommendations are, especially if any of them attend or have attended the school you are considering. Finding a school with a good veteran's program will make a world of difference in your academic experience.

4. Understand Your Own Needs

Understanding your own needs is vital to the success of your academic pursuits. For example, what is your capacity to learn in a classroom? Do you think you would operate better in a large campus, or a small campus? Do you learn better in an online or in-person environment? Your answers to all of these questions should impact your final choice. For instance, if you have a family, you will need to consider whether you can relocate, or whether you need to pursue local options or seek out an online learning program.

Making the Transition

Once you have evaluated your own needs and requirements, the next step is to begin applying for schools that meet those needs. Becoming a nurse is an incredibly rewarding career path that allows you to make a difference in people's lives on a daily basis while fostering the skills and abilities you learned in the military.

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 GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website.

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