Army Seeks Nurses, Expands Benefits
By Christina Orlovsky, senior staff writer
Nurses face an endless amount of job opportunities and
innumerable career avenues to pursue—especially in times of a shortage. In an
effort to encourage more nurses to take the military path to their profession,
the Army and Army Reserve have increased their benefits and offerings for
Facing the same workforce shortage as the civilian nursing
industry, the Army is aiming to increase its appeal through a variety of
financial rewards offered to registered nurses seeking sign-on bonuses, further
training and student loan repayment.
“We’re experiencing the same types of shortages and concerns
that our civilian counterparts are in terms of nursing in general,” explained
Major Carolyn Gales, RN, BSN, MS, MBA, active duty nursing program manager for
the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Gales added that certain specialties are in greater need than
others and the financial rewards and opportunities reflect these needs.
“We need critical-care nurses just like the civilian workforce
does, and we need nurse anesthetists just like the short-stay facilities do,”
Gales said. “We target them with a lot of money.”
Among the incentives now offered by the Army is a sign-on
bonus of $25,000 for those willing to commit to four years of full-time
active-duty service. Sign-on bonuses of up to $15,000 are available for certain
specialties in the Army Reserve, which requires monthly part-time training or
more often depending on the unit of assignment. Active duty will accept
personnel up to age 49, while the Army Reserve has an age limit of 52. Both may
be waived for those with prior military service.
The active duty Nurse Corps is also currently offering a
Health Professions Loan Repayment, which repays up to $30,651 in school
loans used to obtain a nursing degree based on a three-year commitment. Nurses
can take advantage of further specialized training after one year on active duty
and, upon request, are guaranteed training in critical-care nursing,
maternal-child nursing, operating room nursing or psychiatric/mental health
nursing. Additional training in Army public health nursing and emergency room
nursing require a recommendation and endorsement from a nursing director.
“Currently, the minimum active duty commitment for the Army
Nurse Corps is three years,” Gales explained, “so you wouldn’t have to obligate
yourself for more than the minimum to benefit from the loan repayment.”
Additionally, the Army Reserve expanded its Specialized
Training Assistance Program (STRAP). Students may use STRAP to complete their
BSN, obtain a master's degree in adult critical nursing or nursing
anesthesia. Students receiving STRAP will earn a $1,300 monthly stipend for each
month enrolled in school and will be obligated for two years with each year
assistance was used. The Army Reserve also offers the Health Professions Loan
While the specialized training is a key professional benefit,
Gales added that the personal benefits for Army nurses are also crucial to their
success in nursing once their tour of duty ends.
“Once you leave the Army—or any military branch—you have the
qualities of being flexible, adaptable and willing to travel. In my opinion,
that makes it possible for you to take advantage of the many opportunities in
nursing that are available to you,” Gales said, adding that she has taken
advantage of the many educational opportunities available to her since she
joined the Army in 1984, earning her master’s degree in informatics and her MBA.
“I would also say that Army nurses have been more exposed to
being leaders, knowing how to problem solve, making sure we take steps with the
appropriate level of urgency—not just in terms of clinical duties but problem
solving in general—and overall, we tend to bring a level of leadership to a
civilian environment,” she added.
While the character benefits of Army nursing also come with
their share of challenges—relocation and the potential danger of military
surroundings among them—the underlying goal and role of the Army nurse is not
very different from that of a civilian nurse.
“The Army Nurse Corps is part of the Army Medical Department,
which obviously supports the fighting force of the U.S. Army,” Gales concluded.
“Wherever the soldiers go, the Army Medical Department goes,”
she added. “Our job is to take care of wounded soldiers, and we have to be
willing to go where we need to go to get them and make sure they’re cared for.
Our primary duty is not to carry a weapon; our duty is to take care of those who
For more information, visit the Web site of the Army Nurse Corps.
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