Nurse Types / Air Force Nurse
While civilian nurses may end up stuck in predictable jobs with routine hours, Air Force nurses can volunteer for assignments all over the world. Or they can apply for jobs stateside and see all the U.S. has to offer. Air Force nursing offers a rewarding lifestyle with the opportunity to make a difference in the world.
Nurses in the U.S. Air Force serve airmen and their families, using cutting-edge technologies in the world’s most advanced healthcare facilities. Air Force nurses make lifelong relationships while doing it.
This article will tell you what you need to know about becoming a nurse in the U.S. Air Force.
- What is an Air Force nurse?
- What do Air Force nurses do?
- Where do Air Force nurses work?
- What are specific types of Air Force nurses?
- How do you become an Air Force nurse?
- What are additional requirements of Air Force nurses?
- What are the salary and career outlooks for Air Force nurses?
- Air Force nurse career advancement
What is an Air Force nurse?
The Air Force is one of six military branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Nurses in the Air Force staff military medical facilities. All Air Force nurses serve as officers, a title associated with ranking and pay.
Qualities of a successful Air Force nurse
Air Force nurses receive training in leadership. However, natural and learned leadership skills will contribute to a successful military career.
Success in the Air Force also depends on a nurse’s ability to remain calm in challenging or stressful situations.
Some military nurses serve in foreign countries, and others in war zones. Air Force nurses must be adaptable and flexible.
What do Air Force nurses do?
Air Force Nurses provide healthcare services for U.S. Airmen, their families, and retirees.
Nursing in the Air Force is similar to nursing in the civilian sector. Air Force nurses are assigned to posts where they perform nursing functions and practice roles such as:
- Administering medications and treatments
- Documenting interventions and maintaining patient records
- Overseeing assistive personnel
- Performing assessments and monitoring vital signs
- Providing patient education and care coordination
- Triaging patients in emergencies
- Working with other doctors and healthcare providers
Other duties specific to nursing in the Air Force include:
- Participating in humanitarian relief mission efforts
- Setting up medical triage in military zones
- Stabilizing patients for Air Force transport
The Air Force may also promote nurses to roles in clinical research or administration.
A day in the life of an Air Force nurse
A day in the life of an Air Force nurse depends on their assignment and post. Most nurses are stationed on military bases in hospitals or clinics. Shifts for Air Force nurses are like those for civilians and usually last 8 or 12 hours. They begin with clocking in and preparing for patient care duties.
A shift as an Air Force hospital nurse includes:
- Rounding with the doctors
- Administering medications and treatments
- Documenting in medical records
- Providing high quality care for servicemen and women
In Air Force medical facilities, the medical technicians (patient care assistants) are trained to do more than in the civilian world. For instance, they can draw blood and start IVs because they have medic field training. Air Force nurses get more support in military jobs than in other nursing specialties outside of the military.
Where do Air Force nurses work?
Most Air Force nurses work in clinics or hospitals, but there are exciting opportunities for military nurses to serve around the world. Commissioned officers can request certain geographical assignments, although there are no guarantees.
Air Force nurses are stationed in:
- Air Force base clinics or hospitals (domestic or international)
- Aeromedical evacuation teams
- VA Hospitals
- Pop-up nursing facilities in war zones/territories
- Air Stations
International military sites where Air Force nurses are deployed include:
- South Korea
Air Force nurses deployed overseas on military bases do not have to obtain an international nursing license.
What are specific types of Air Force nurses?
- Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
- Women’s Healthcare Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)
- Flight Nurse
- Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse (NIC)
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
- Mental Health Nurse (MHN)
- Obstetrical Nurse (OB)
- Operating Room Nurse (OR)
- Critical Care Nurse
- Clinical Nurse (med-surg)
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
- Adult Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
- Certified Nurse Midwife
- Emergency/Trauma Nurse
Expert advice from nurses like you
How do you become an Air Force nurse?
Step 1 – Become a registered nurse
To join the U.S. Air Force as a nurse, you must be a registered nurse (RN). Nurses with an Associate Degrees in Nursing (ADN) or nursing diplomas must return to college for a bachelor’s degree or higher for consideration by the Air Force.
Earn a BSN
Becoming an Air Force nurse requires an advanced nursing degree, that means a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Nurses with associate’s degrees can qualify for RN-to-BSN programs to obtain a BSN degree in 18-24 months.
College graduates without a nursing degree can also qualify for certain Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs. Suppose you graduated with a bachelor’s degree in a field related to nursing, such as therapy or social work. In that case, you might be eligible for an Accelerated Bachelors of Science (ABSN) degree. ABSN programs prepare graduates to take the NCLEX board exam in less time than earning the BSN degree.
Pass the NCLEX exam
Nursing degree holders must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to get licensed as an RN in their state. The NCLEX test determines if a graduate has gained the knowledge required to practice as an entry-level nurse. It is required for licensure in all U.S. states and territories.
Step 2: Accumulate experience
The U.S. Air Force requires 12 months of full-time civilian experience. At least six months should be specialized.
After gaining professional nursing experience, the next step is to enlist or enroll in the military.
Talk to recruiter
An Air Force recruiter is an enlisted soldier with special training on how to guide candidates through the process of joining the military. They can answer questions about life in the military and advise you on your options for joining as an Air Force nurse.
The recruiter helps prospective nurses complete the application process. They can help arrange appointments with the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) if needed, for physical evaluations or hearing and vision screening.
When all requirements are met, the next step is application review. Your application file will go before the Officer Training School Selection Board. They evaluate each applicant’s ability to serve. Selection boards convene biannually in February and August.
Complete Commissioned Officer Training (COT)
Nurses who are accepted into the Air Force will receive orders and departure dates for Commissioned Officer Training (COT). COT for nurses is held at the Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.
During the 5.5-week training, nurses go through a combination of physical and classroom work. COT has four phases designed to transition nurses from the civilian world to military life.
- Phase 1 focuses on teamwork, discipline, standardization, the fundamentals of leadership, and military management.
- Phase 2 teaches nurses about Air Force culture and leadership.
- Phase 3 instructs officers on the transition from practicing leadership to becoming leaders.
- Phase 4 is the completion of leadership training.
Step 3: Obtain certifications
Although there are no military-specific nursing certifications, nurses who are certified in their specialty demonstrate to the Officer Training School Selection Board they are well-qualified to serve in their specialty.
What are additional requirements of Air Force nurses?
In addition to the educational, professional, and training requirements above, Air Force nurses must also meet these additional requirements:
- Between the ages of 18 and 47
- A native-born or naturalized U.S. citizen
- Able to pass a background check and drug screen
- Current physical and immunizations
What are the salary and career outlooks for Army nurses?
As of July 2022, the average salary for an Air Force nurse is $70,195. However, officers who are ranked higher earn more. The 90th percentile reports average pay of around $156,000.
The U.S. Air Force also offers nurses a promising career outlook. Opportunities for advancement are communicated to the nurse, and nurses frequently receive feedback on their job performance.
As they stay with the Air Force, nurses have the opportunity to advance in:
- Pay grade
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In some cases, base pay for an officer starting in the U.S. Air Force may be lower than a civilian nursing salary. However, pay in the military is supplemented with stipends for the cost of living, hazard pay, and incentives. Air Force officers also receive frequent pay increases.
Other benefits that nurses in the Air Force receive include:
- Full medical and dental care
- On-base housing with utilities and maintenance included
- Generous retirement plans
- On-base recreation, including pools, tennis, and golf
- Discount shopping
- Home loan programs
- Education assistance
- 30 days of vacation each year
Air Force nurse career advancement
Air Force nurse experience differs from working in a civilian practice or hospital. You get to use nursing skills, but also, as an Air Force officer, you develop leadership skills that enhance your nursing career.
One benefit of Air Force nursing is Air Force-funded educational and career-enhancing opportunities.
Air Force nurse positions are often the most highly sought after because officers in the Air Force are said to have the best quality of life in the military.
The Air Force also offers shorter deployments than the other military branches. While Air Force deployments still have 6–12 month assignments, they may also have a series of 2–3 month deployments in quick succession.
Nurses are the backbone of Air Force medicine. If you are looking for a specialty where you can help patients and serve your country, a job in the U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps might be the right career move for you. Nurses interested in an Officer Commission with the U.S. Air Force can find more resources at these links.
- Air Force Nurse Corps
- Department of Defense: Air Force
- Military Health System
- Society of Air Force Nurses
You must become a registered nurse and have some experience. Then you work with a recruiter to help you apply for entering the U.S. Air Force. After that is completed, you complete any medical screening necessary.
As of August 2022, the average salary for an Air Force nurse is $70,195. However, officers who are ranked higher earn more. The 90th percentile reports average pay of around $156,000. The salary is set by the federal government.
You will need to attend the Commissioned Officer Training, a 5.5 week course that teaches leadership and military life. This is held at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
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