December 20, 2018

{Guest Post} 6 Best Nursing Jobs for Veterans

6 Best Nursing Jobs for Veterans

After leaving the military, veterans are often drawn to jobs in health care, especially the medical professions. Nursing in particular is a popular choice, as it combines fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping work with helping others–two things that often drew veterans originally to the service. But don’t put on your scrubs quite yet. Not all nursing jobs are created equal, and some positions are a better fit than others for those who have served in the military. In honor of Veterans Day, we’ve rounded up the six best nursing jobs for veterans.

Emergency Trauma Nurse
Chances are that you’ve made at least one trip to the emergency department (ED) in your lifetime. The ED is a catch-all for broken bones, work accidents, electrocutions and all manner of acute injuries. Emergency nurses never know what will come through the door of the emergency room and no two shifts are ever the same. Veterans are often drawn to emergency trauma nursing roles because of their experience with quick-response situations, which translates well into dealing with acute, life-threatening injuries. Emergency nurses must quickly triage patients and address their symptoms in the order of importance, which requires a decisive, knowledgeable professional who can make good decisions under stress.

Critical Care Nurse
Critical care nurses work in intensive care units (ICU), taking care of seriously ill patients. They may also work in more specialized units such as post-anesthesia, burn or coronary care. Patients are normally only admitted to these units because they have life-threatening conditions and need to be monitored around-the-clock until they are better. As a result, critical care nurses usually only see one or two patients at a time because their patient’s status is so fragile and things can change at a moment’s notice. Unlike the controlled chaos of the ER, the ICU and similar units are extremely well-organized and structured so nothing slips through the cracks. Because of the highly acute patient care required, critical care nurses need to have a lot of stamina and focus–two qualities that veterans also develop during their time in the military.

Surgical Nurse
Because of their extensive experience working in teams in high pressure situations, veterans are often drawn to working as surgical nurses. Now, surgical nursing work isn’t quite as varied as emergency trauma or critical care, since you’ll (usually) have the surgery scheduled in advance and working in a specialty necessarily limits the type of cases you’ll see. However, surgical nursing is still a fast-paced, high-stakes nursing job, especially when it comes to more invasive major procedures. Surgical nurses operate (no pun intended) as part of tight-knit team, and they need to be excellent communicators and willing to take instructions from the surgeon or others in the operating room. They also need to be proactive and anticipate what the team might need without being asked and also switch from one task to another quickly without losing focus.

Flight/Transport Nurse
Transport nurses care for patients as they are being transported to hospitals or other facilities. Transport nurses usually work on ambulances, while flight nurses work on medical transport aircraft such as helicopters. Sometimes, transport nurses simply accompany already stable patients, but often they are treating emergency cases such as traumatic injuries, heart attacks and strokes. Giving medical care to patients is already challenging enough, but transport nurses must operate with limited supplies–not to mention work within a confined environment inside a moving vehicle. These limitations, combined with the acute nature of medical emergencies, calls for clear thinking during chaos, fast and accurate decision-making and the ability to work under pressure—all qualities that veterans often have in spades. If you’re look for a fast-paced environment where you can save lives while getting out of the hospital, becoming a transport or flight nurse is a great option.

Veterans Affairs Nurse
Nurses in Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and facilities work specifically with patients who have previously served in the military. As a veteran yourself, you’re well-equipped to empathize with these patients because you know exactly what they’ve gone through and you have a common background to draw on. That being said, working with veterans can be triggering for nurses who had traumatic experience while in the military, so know yourself and whether or not working with veterans would be a good fit for you personally. VA hospitals hire nurses and administrators across many specialties, so there’s a wide variety of potential roles open to you, including registered nurses, clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, nurse executives, psychiatric nurses, nurse practitioners, nursing assistants and more. The VA also offers several different career development programs to help employees grow as professional nurses.

Travel Nurse
Many people retire from the military partly because of the strain that long deployments place on them and their families. However, not everyone is ready to stop traveling for work altogether once they leave the military and becoming a travel nurse can be a great way to satisfy any wanderlust you might still have. Plus, sometimes you can even bring your family with you! Travel nurses are contract workers who are hired to work at a hospital or other facility for a specific amount of time. Thirteen weeks (about three months) is the usual length of a travel nurse contract, though they range anywhere from eight to 26 weeks. Because of the great demand for nurses, travel nurses often have several potential assignments and cities to pick from. The pay is competitive and housing and certain living expenses are often included in the contract. Usually you’ll get some type of health insurance and retirement benefits but not PTO or short-term disability, so be sure to look into the exact benefit package you’ll have before you pack up your scrubs.

If you’re a veteran looking for a medical position, these six nursing jobs are a great place to start. You’ll find a lot of similarities between these clinical environments and your time in the military. Thank you for your service, both as a veteran and as a nurse!

Thank you to Deborah Swanson, Real Caregiver Program Coordinator, of for writing this article. 

1 comment:

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