Public Health Service

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the U.S. Public Health Service has an interesting nursing career opportunity.  The USPHS is the only civilian organization that has a military rank system and commissions nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals in almost the same way the U.S. Navy does.

In order to be commissioned in the Public Health Service as a nurse  you must be under 44 years old, have a Bachelors degree or Masters Degree in Nursing from an NLN or CCNE accredited college and have an unrestricted nursing license from one of the 50 States; Washington, DC; the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; the U.S. Virgin Islands; or Guam, and have a passing score on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

The PHS commissions professionals in the following disciplines; Physician, Nurse, Pharmacist, Dentist, Dietitian, Engineer, Environmental Health, Health Services Scientist, Therapist,  and Veterinarian.

There are only approximately 6000 healthcare professionals in the USPHS serving all over the country and available for healthcare crisis management.  Officially a branch of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services the PHS provides medical care and services to underserved populations such as the Native American communities and inner cities.  PHS nurses also are instrumental  in research, drug trial studies, national policy decision making and nursing education. PHS nurses and other healthcare professionals also respond to national emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina and for epidemics.

The rank structure of the PHS is similar to the U.S. Navy with pay grades ranging from O-1 (Ensign) to O-10 which is the equivalent of a 4 star Admiral in the Navy. The official titles for PHS Commissioned Corps are:                                    

Rank  PHS Title   Navy Title
O-1 Jr. Assistant   Ensign
O-2  Assistant           Lieutenant j.g.
O-3 Senior Assistant   Lieutenant
O-4      Full  Lieutenant Commander
O-5  Senior   Commander
O-6  Director Captain
O-7  Assistant Surgeon General     Rear Admiral (Lower Half)
O-8 Deputy Surgeon General or Assistant Surgeon General Rear Admiral
O-9 Surgeon General  Vice Admiral
O-10 Assistant Secretary for Health  Admiral

The PHS originated as a uniform service dedicated to providing health care and hospital services to the U.S. Merchant Marines. The duties and responsibilities expanded and they now serve as part of the nations public health service and have officers serving with NOAA, the US Coast Guard, and other uniform services depending on the needs of that service.