top of page

Transitioning from Military Medic to Nursing – Advice from the trenches



Nurse staffing opportunities are all over the place, literally in all 50 states.  To go along this journey we first dive into a place of unfiltered wisdom or absolute madness: Reddit.  What I found there was comments from fellow nurses, educators, and hospitals attesting that they highly value the sense of urgency veterans have, the wisdom they bring from having seen so many situations, and how they can adapt and overcome.    

Digging through posts up to 10 years ago around the simple question:

A medic is getting out of the military and thinking of going into nursing, what advice would folks give?

The pure amount of good information coming from the replies on this is worth sharing a dozens times over and its applicable not just to nurse staffing but any shift to civilian jobs. 

·         Nobody is interested in what you do know, what matters is what you don't know, that's where the learning happens…the best part about it is: When it comes time to do simple procedures for your instructor, you won't be learning who to say hello to a patient, wash your hands, not drop the CSF tube after the LP. Hell, with all that experience, you might even double check to see if the O2 connected to the NRB is on.


·         …your triage skills will definitely help with time management, which is one of the most difficult skills to master for a new nurse. Effective nursing, like effective field triage, depends a lot on determining which needs will be met when, if at all.


·         So for the only thing I feel I have an advantage with is assessment, prioritizing and meds.


·         Civilian paramedic to RN, now in Neuro ICU. Hardest part for me was not being able to just do it. Otherwise you will be fine with all your skills and knowledge base. Good luck and have patience with your instructors, don't let them know you know everything!



·         The biggest shock for you is going to be the patient population. You're going from healthy young Joes who are damn near impossible to kill to 80-year-old septic hypertensive patients with renal failure and congestive heart failure who may code if you roll them the wrong way in their bed.


Be open to learning new ways of doing things, new ways of thinking. Also be open to forgetting old ways of doing things and old ways of thinking. Keep these in mind, and implement them, and you should be fine.


·         The patient care experience I gained as a Corpsman was invaluable going through nursing school. While my peers were extremely nervous and uncomfortable when beginning to work with patients, it was familiar to me and I always was able to dive right in.


·         Don't have to lock yourself into a setting. There are some many specialties and random nooks to get into.


·         Best advice I can give you is to be a sponge, find out which nurses you can rely on and ask questions when you’re not sure. Always remember that the worst thing you can do is panic. When shit hits the fan, take a deep breath and slow down. Any trainwreck patient you get just remember your ABCs, get a good line, and work from there.



A few years back I participated on a panel with financial executives to give advice and answer questions from Veterans who were transitioning from the military.  One of the concerns that kept coming up is how to prepare to go to school or what steps should they take to beef up their resume to apply for their first position? 

Do you remember sitting around the sand table planning the mission?  The briefing on the whiteboard and the (many) pre-inspection checks before you rolled out?  Plan for the worst – Murphys Law 101 what can go wrong will go wrong.  Excessive preparation is a blessing and a curse.   

After listening to these questions and going through these Veterans military backgrounds it was very clear, crystal clear in fact, they were over planning; they were already ready and frozen by their need to prepare in every aspect possible before the mission (i.e. like getting to a place 15 minutes is early, maybe 30, but an hour is overkill!).  They didn’t know how valuable Veterans are; they knew they were trained and capable, but there wasn’t a perspective of comparison.  The civilian workplace was scary, it sounds like if you mess up in the slightest you’re going to get fired or if you’re not perfectly qualified you won’t have a chance.   This is not the case, you already have the drive, the purpose, and the mission driven mentality to excel in education; you’ll probably fast track it through because you’re really there and fully present to learn and grow; you have your purpose. 

Work to actively stay humble and flexible; be open to new ways, be open to perspectives that differ even if only in order to learn; engage constructively not defensively and go forward!

Iron Medical is Ready and Willing to Help

We aren’t just a group of recruiters, we are planners, teammates, idea bouncers, and are looking to help you find your fit.  We would love to hear your story and see if we can help! 


-          Chris


bottom of page