Nursing in the Military

The profession of alleviating the suffering of wounded and dying soldiers is as old as warfare itself. Our modern definition of nursing however started with Florence Nightingale on October 21, 1854 during the Crimean War when Nightingale together with she and a contingent of 38 volunteer women were dispatched to Turkey to the aid of wounded British soldiers.

Nightingale’s work later inspired nurses in the American Civil War, during which time, more than 5,000 women served as nurses on the battlefronts. With their contribution, they and their service helped to pave the way for women in professional medicine after the war. The history of women in the military began with the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in 1901.


Military nurses perform all the duties of a traditional nurse both during but are times of war and peace. They are also usually entrusted with a wider range of responsibilities than nurses in a civilian environment. In fact, a military nurse can be classified as active duty, reserve, or hired as a civilian employee.

The tour of duty for an active or reserve nurse serving in the military requires a long-term commitment. It is common for military nurses to be sent abroad or into service at a combat hospital. Conversely, for civilian employees, the length of time depends on the contract.

Ideally, active and reserve duty nurses in the military require experience in critical care, operating room, and trauma. Most are registered nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and enter into service as officers. But these requirements are not mandatory for civilian employment.


Nurses in the military also receive benefits that their civilian counterparts do not. The best of these benefits would be education benefits, which is one of the most lucrative. Nurses in the military have the option to continue on to their postgraduate master’s degrees with nearly 75% of their tuition fees paid for by the military. A master’s degree in nursing is required to get promoted to the rank of major and higher. With a higher promotion, a nurse in the military receives better pension benefits during retirement.

Many anonymous accounts of current and veteran military nurses indicate that promotions up to the rank of captain are fairly easy. However, it is a competitive arena above this rank, which is when promotion is difficult to acquire. It is only after that that things get very competitive. Most vets also agree that out of the three branches of the military, the Air Force nurses have it the best as members of the Air Force treat one another more like family than the other branches.

Application Submission

Those considering a career as a military nurse should be aware that the recruiter’s words may not always reflect reality. Instead, avoid taking the recruiters word completely as military recruiters are under pressure to make their quota and tend to sugar-coat things. Prospective military nurses should instead call their target department directly to acquire further information on the military nursing position. The lieutenant on duty should be on standby to assist candidates over the phone. The best time for such calls would be in the middle of the night and not on the hour or half-hour.

Interested in a career as a military nurse? You’ll need to earn your nursing degree first. Begin you search for a school here:

Search for a nursing degree now