After Nurse Corps – Transitioning Into A Career As A Civilian Nurse

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Successfully transitioning from the military service into a civilian life can be difficult for any service member, and commissioned Nurse Corps officers are no exception. The high degree of discipline, the command and rank structure, and day-to-day routines are undeniably rigorous and ingrained in the armed services. The world of civilian healthcare tends to be far less formal and more flexible for nurses.

Military troop and civilian nurse shake hands

To make the transition smoother, military nurses should expect to complete some prerequisites before fulfilling civilian roles. These may include military-sponsored transition programs, job seeking support, and even further training or schooling.

Having a bachelor’s of science in nursing, which is required to receive a commission as a military nurse officer, can be invaluable for a recently separated military officer seeking civilian employment as a nurse.

Turning Differences Into Advantages

Military nursing has a long, illustrious history dating back to the time of Florence Nightingale and before. The structure and culture of the military tend to differ, sometimes dramatically, from civilian life. Many military nurses can be intimidated by this fact, but these differences are more often than not beneficial to both the employer and the employee.

“Veterans have a great deal to offer to potential civilian employers, including valuable nontechnical – or ‘soft’ – skills, such as leadership, decision making, persistence, and attention to detail,” claims military veterans expert Chaitra Hardison, et al, in the introduction to the toolkit, “What Veterans Bring To Civilian Workplaces” on

Hardison’s toolkit is used to facilitate understanding and communication between newly separated military personnel and their new civilian employers. Further benefits to hiring veterans are covered thoroughly in the Veteran Administration’s (VA) “Positive Outcomes Of Military Service.” According to the VA, military veterans are:

  • Responsible
  • Dependable
  • Disciplined
  • Team players
  • Mature beyond their peers
  • Able to make sound and timely decisions
  • Technically and tactically proficient
  • Eager to meet challenges
  • Adept at coping with stress
  • Protective of those left in their charge

All of the differences between the military and civilian life can result in veteran-turned-civilian employees who hold themselves to a high standard and work harder than many non-veterans. Military nurses exemplify all of the traits that make for outstanding civilian nurses. They also tend to create a deep sense of camaraderie and foster positive, respectful relationships with their coworkers and superiors.

Transition Assistance

“People undergoing transition may or may not know what to expect, and their expectations may or may not be realistic,” explains Captain Julie M. Bosch in her report, “Experience Of Military Nurse Practitioners During Their First Year Of Practice.”

“When one knows what to expect, the stress associated with transition may be somewhat alleviated.”

Bosch’s report and the increasing current of sentiment that supported it resulted in the Defense Department implementing new programs that are designed to assist servicemen and women in transitioning out of the armed forces.

 All military branches offer their officers and enlisted personnel the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) when they are facing separation. According to the Department of Defense TAP website, this worthwhile program “provides information, tools, and training to ensure service members and their spouses are prepared for the next step in civilian life, whether pursuing additional education, finding a job in the public or private sector, or starting their own business.”

Among the many services associated with TAP are:

  • Veterans’ Employment and Training Services (VETS)
  • Veterans Employment Center (VEC)
  • Transition Goals, Plans, Success (GPS) curriculum.

Through these programs, separating service members can receive training, apply for grants and apprenticeship opportunities, search for jobs that offer veterans’ preference, secure assistance for their spouse (who is also, in a way, transitioning into civilian life), and plan their future civilian careers even while they are still serving.

Military nurses who are interested in these programs should request more information through their command and make an on-base appointment to discuss their options.

Former Military Nurses Succeed

Healthcare workers in the armed services can transition into any number of civilian roles from hospitals to more specialized facilities such as private practice offices, VA clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, and research laboratories.

“Military healthcare workers have an easier transition into civilian life than do other servicemen and women,” says VetJobs president Ted Daywalt and Lighthouse Recruiting partner John Harol in “Opportunities In Healthcare For Military Veterans” on “Federal standards and patient load are the same in the military as in civilian life. Also, medical jargon stays the same, as do most of the procedures and protocols defining healthcare professions.”

Success stories from former military nurses are everywhere, and one need look no further than local hospitals or medical clinics to find someone who has successfully transitioned from armed forces nursing to civilian nursing.

“Be confident in your abilities to lead, organize, implement, and assess,” advises former U.S. Army Nurse Corps Capt. Jeff Moehling on “Civilian employers are looking for candidates that can express themselves clearly and concisely in a manner that will motivate others.”

About Duquesne’s RN to BSN Program

Duquesne University offers one of the top-ranked online BSN programs in the nation and enables a registered nurse with an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma in nursing to earn a BSN degree. Classes start in fall, spring, and summer and the program can be completed on a full- or part-time basis. Topics include information technology, pathophysiology, genetics, and nursing ethics.

For more information, visit the Duquesne University online BSN web page.