Military Nurses - Nurses Adapt Well to the Military

At first glance it's hard to understand how a person becomes a military nurse. The idea that a nurse would be able to walk into a recruiters office one day and walk out as an officer in the U.S. Military the next day is hard to believe. Well, it doesn't happen the next day literally. There is some paperwork to fill out, an application must be completed, a background check is done, references are contacted, a packet is completed and submitted. The packet goes to a board whose members ensure the nurse meets the standards and requirements of the branch of the armed forces he or she is joining. If they are accepted the nurse suddenly finds themselves with a commission as a lieutenant and after a few short weeks they are officers in the military!

what surprises a lot of people is how readily nurses adapt to military life and the military culture. the rigors of military life and the demands that the military culture place upon the fledgling nurse officer are completely foreign to the civilian way of doing things. A person expects that civilians who work in law enforcement or fire fighting adapt easily to military life. these occupations often have a culture that is considered to be Para-military or military like in structure and standards. In fact, law enforcement organizations often have ranks that mirror military rank such as sergeant, lieutenant and captain. Nurses don't have ranks or Para-military structure. They do wear uniforms. This at first glance seems to be one of the few areas of similarity with the military. It appears to be a paradox when you learn how easily a nurse becomes a military nurse.

What nurses do have is a culture that emphasizes commitment, integrity, honesty, ethical conduct, loyalty to the profession and patients, patient advocacy, and hard work. Nurses get up early and work long hours. they understand the concept of duty to the patient and they never abandon a patient. One of the few professions in the world that is expected to stay on the job until they can no longer physically perform their duties is nursing. In the hospital setting a nurse is expected to continue to care for patients until a replacement has arrived. The decisions that nurses make affect lives, health and welfare. They make life or death decisions and save lives almost every day they work. From the day a nurse begins the profession she or he is taught that nursing is more than just a job. It requires dedication to a profession that requires compassion and devotion to something besides yourself. Nurses are taught to treat patients with dignity and respect regardless of their situation, race, culture or creed.

The military is a huge organization that has a distinct culture of its own. Regardless of which service it is they stress values and ethical conduct. They all have a set of values that emphasize honesty, loyalty, integrity, selfless service, respect, courage, and duty to the country, the mission and the service one is in. In addition one of the creeds of all military services is that they never leave a comrade behind. The military gets up early, works long hours and works hard. A military person understands that some days you don't go home until the work is done. One of the military creeds is "I shall never abandon my post or my duty until I am properly relieved". The military is more than just a job. It requires service and dedication to something besides self. In the military leaders often make life or death decisions that affect the health and well being of many people.

By now you should be seeing a pattern of similarity between being a nurse and being a military person. They both get up early or work nights. They share a common standard of not leaving until the job is done. They both share a common standard that they will not leave a critical job if there is no one to take their place. Both cultures have a history of demanding personal courage, honesty, integrity, respect, loyalty, and selfless service. Both cultures have the expectation and belief that what they do is more than just a job. Both cultures have a mythos that not everyone is cut out to do what they do. Both cultures have a history of doing difficult work in less than ideal circumstances with a minimum of resources. Both cultures deal with life or death decisions that affect other people's lives.

When you look at it from this point of view it makes sense that someone can go from being a civilian nurse to being a military nurse in a relatively short time. The ability of the nurse to adapt, think critically, problem solve, and be dedicated to the patient also fits in well with the military culture. And of course, there is the nursing. After all, when you join the military as a nurse you are still going to be doing all the things a nurse does. You might do them in a tent, or out of the back of an ambulance. You might do your OR nursing in a mobile OR. Or you could find yourself on a ship at sea. But, no matter where you are in the military you will still be a nurse.

Put it all together and you might realize that for many nurses the culture of nursing and that of the military are so similar that becoming a military nurse isn't much harder than changing uniforms.

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