Nursing Officer

Job description

Nursing Officers provide primary and tertiary patient care to ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members, either in Canadian Forces Health Care Centres in Canada, or in acute care hospitals while on operations abroad. Nursing Officers also provide preventive, occupational and environmental health care services through practice as well as through health education and policy development.

Nursing Officers work within a collaborative practice model with other members of the health care team. Nursing Officers have the opportunity to work in different domains of nursing practice including:

  • Clinical/patient care delivery
  • Health services policy development
  • Administration
  • Training and education
Transcript

Nursing Officer

I’m Lieutenant Navy Jo-Ann Hnatiuk from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a critical care Nursing Officer just back from my 2nd tour in Afghanistan.

And I’m Captain Nathalie Auger from Ottawa. I’m a perioperative Nursing Officer posted to Vancouver.

HNATIUK: As commissioned members of the Canadian Forces, Nursing Officers are leading members of Canada’s world-class military health care team with responsibilities that are far more varied and challenging than most nurses will find in a civilian hospital or clinical career.

AUGER: We serve in traditional nursing roles at bases across Canada, in out-patient clinics and on rotation at major civilian hospitals.

HNATIUK: But what sets us apart is that we also deploy with our troops overseas and care for their physical and emotional needs when they return.

AUGER: To me, nursing in the military has more depth and that’s what attracted me to it. I knew that I wouldn’t have to just show up to the same floor or the same job every day, every month, of every year. I knew the deployment opportunity was there and I knew that I could do different roles while I was in the military and that’s really what gravitated me towards this job.

HNATIUK: One minute, I could be here talking to you and the next minute, I could be going on a mission to Germany or Africa or Australia – anywhere in the world. We are limitless as to where we can go. As long as there’s airplanes and a place to land or a helicopter to get onto, we can be doing anything to be helping the country, as well as the men and women that are serving in this country.

AUGER: Nursing Officers work with some of the world’s most advanced medical equipment and we have the unique opportunity to receive advanced training in a variety of specialties.

You can do your clinical side where either you specialized, like myself, in the operating room or you can also specialize in the intensive care unit, in mental health or in air evac. You can also do some teaching at the health services school in Borden, Ontario. You can also do some administrative postings and tasks also, so really, wherever you want to see your career go and whatever tasks you want to do, you can direct yourself to do those.

HNATIUK: On my most recent tour in Afghanistan, I was part of a forward air evacuation team.

I would have to say in my career, that was probably the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had. Given the fact that nursing isn’t primarily in a forward capacity or dismounted in any way, for us, it was amazing. To be able to go and be that first responder, to swoop in, rescue a soldier, bring him back out of harm’s way and back to a caring facility that we have over there was probably the most rewarding experience I could ever imagine.

AUGER: When we’re on deployment, the job for us is much more intense. There’s a lot more thinking outside the box because we don’t have all the equipment or all the kit that we would have here in Canada and we don’t have the professional resources either. And so, on deployment, I would do part of anaesthesia, I would help with recovering a patient after surgery, and so, it has much more depth, it definitely puts you on your toes more.

HNATIUK: After your Basic training is completed, you’ll begin the Basic Nursing Officer Course at the Canadian Forces Medical Service School in Borden, Ontario. That course lasts 3 months and it introduces you to military nursing both in the clinic and in the field.

After the Basic Nursing Officer Course, you’ll do a five-week Basic Field Health Service Course. This part of your training emphasizes the leadership duties of a nurse in a military field setting where you may be in command of up to 40 service members.

AUGER: Your first full-time posting usually will be at a military clinic or civilian hospital here in Canada.

General duty nurses can go just about anywhere, either affiliated to bases or to our civilian hospital megacentres. If they’re not in civilian facilities, they’re on base working at the clinics and seeing soldiers through the sick parades.

HNATIUK: But when you go away on deployment, the conditions become more austere. The medicine is the same, but the population is different.

My job there is simply to save a life and to provide the best care I can to an injured person. And that person can be a civilian, it can be an insurgent, it can be a soldier and hopefully, if I’m able to do that, I’m able to support the mission in that way and the best way that I know how.

AUGER: Now my job in Vancouver, I share my time between the operating room and some of the work at the Canadian Forces Trauma Training Centre. And what we do there is actually train medical personnel before they deploy to Afghanistan. So this is definitely a validating part of it, where now I’ve deployed, now I’ve come home and now I get to use all that experience and put it forward to those medical personnel that are going to deploy in the future.

AUGER: Oh, I’d have to say, the best part about being a nurse is definitely the deployments. The excitement of them, the opportunity just to sharpen your skills and just really be at the front line of the care of those soldiers. If there’s a job next week that needs my expertise, that’s where I’m going and that’s really the excitement and you know, the challenges of every day in our job. When you talk to your friends, there’s no way they’ve come close to doing half the stuff you’ve done.

HNATIUK: Well, in any circumstance, saving a life, I think, is the most rewarding and exhilarating experience I’ve ever had. To give an individual another opportunity to live a good life or to see their family is something that we can’t replace and I think, as a healthcare professional, it’s pretty amazing to see that happen.

Overview

Working environment

Nursing Officers usually work in hospitals and clinics in a collaborative practice with other medical team members. The work schedule may vary from shift work to a regular 40-hour work week, depending on the environment. Nursing Officers may be called to assist in exercises, medical evacuation flights, and domestic or international emergencies.

During field exercises and deployments to military operations abroad, Nursing Officers live and work in the same environment as the CAF members they treat.

Pay and career development

The starting salary for a fully trained Nursing Officer is $51,000 per year; however, depending on previous experience and training the starting salary may be higher. Regular promotions through the junior officer ranks take place based on the completion of required training and on the length of service as an officer. Once promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (Navy) or Captain, their salary is approximately $74,000 per year.

Related civilian occupations

  • Medical-Surgical Nurse
  • Community Health Nurse
  • Nurse Educator
  • Nurse Manager
  • Nurse Supervisor / Clinical Coordinator

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Training

Basic military officer qualification

After enrolment, you start basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 15 weeks. Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the CAF, basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.

Following basic officer training, official second language training may be offered to you. Training could take from two to nine months to complete depending on your ability in your second language.

Professional training

Nursing Officers attend the Canadian Forces Health Services Training Centre in Borden, Ontario. They are introduced the CAF Health Services organization and history, the roles and responsibilities of the different military clinical team members, and the unique conditions of offering nursing care in a deployed, operational care setting.

On-the-job training

Nursing Officers are required to complete a clinical preceptorship programme to ensure they have the clinical competencies required to deliver care in acute care military setting. The length of the preceptorship depends on each Nursing Officer’s level of clinical experience.

Specialty training

Nursing Officers may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including:

  • Critical Care
  • Mental Health Nursing
  • Perioperative Care
  • Emergency Room Nursing
  • Aeromedical Evacuation Nursing

Advanced training

As they progress in their career, Nursing Officers who demonstrate the required ability and potential will be offered advanced training. Available courses include:

  • Advanced Leadership
  • Advanced Management
  • Advanced Administration
  • Instructional techniques

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Entry plans

Direct entry

If you already have a university degree and licence to practise as a registered Nurse in a Canadian province or territory, the CAF may place you directly into the required on-the-job training program following basic training. Basic training and military officer qualification training are required before being assigned.

Paid Education

Regular Officer Training Plan

Because this position requires a university degree, the CAF will pay successful recruits to complete a Bachelor degree program at a Canadian university. They receive full-time salary including medical and dental care, as well as vacation time with full pay in exchange for working with the CAF for a period of time.

Typically, candidates enter the Canadian Military College System as an Officer Cadet where they study subjects relevant to both their military and academic career. In some instances, the CAF is able to pay for Officer Cadets to attend other Canadian universities in a relevant degree program.  Officer Cadets who attend other Canadian universities typically attend university during the regular academic year and participate in additional military training during the summer months.  If you choose to apply to this program, you must apply both to the CAF and the Canadian university of your choice. For more information, see Paid education.

Officer entry training plan

If you already have a Diploma in Nursing from an accredited Canadian college, a current active licence to practise as a Registered Nurse from a Canadian provincial or territorial regulatory authority and have proof of good standing from that authority, the CAF may subsidize up to two years of full-time studies to complete an undergraduate nursing program. You must be able to provide proof of unconditional acceptance into as accredited Canadian nursing program.

Get started!

If you are interested in this position, start the application process now or send an e-mail to the following address for more information HealthSvcsRecruiting-RecrutementSvcsdesante@forces.gc.ca.

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Part-time option

This occupation is available part-time within the following environments: Navy, Army, Air Force

Serve with the Reserve Force

The role of the Canadian Forces Health Services Reserves is to provide trained personnel to support, augment and sustain Canadian Forces Health Services organizations for Forces operations and training activities, while building and maintaining links between the CAF and the local community.

This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time with a military unit in their community, and may serve while going to school or working at a civilian job. They are paid during their training. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Part-time employment

Nursing Officers may serve with the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army or the Royal Canadian Air Force as part of the Canadian Forces Health Services Group. They are employed to provide primary patient care to sick and injured CAF members, as well as deliver preventive, occupational and environmental health care services. Those employed on a part-time basis usually serve at a Reserve medical unit at a location within Canada and assist in teaching and maintaining the clinical skills of non-licensed members such as the Medical Assistants.

Another part-time career opportunity exists for clinical specialists and nurses with an emergency, critical care, operating room or mental health specialty to broaden the medical support capability for the Health Services by joining 1 Canadian Field Hospital Detachment Ottawa. Members of this unit complete a minimum of 14 days of service and/or training at any time during the year, doing any or all of the following: providing health care services to military members, teaching and monitoring clinical skills of personnel at a local Field Ambulance unit, attending field exercises to practise and/or provide medical care in a military field environment.

Members of this unit live anywhere across Canada. There is a small headquarters and administration section located in Ottawa, Ontario to assist them. This unit provides a more flexible option than the Canadian Forces Health Service Reserve Field Ambulance Units. It does not put as much demand on your time but provides you with opportunities to work as a member of the CAF. All members of the Canadian Forces Health Services Reserves have an opportunity to work overseas as members of a deployed Canadian Forces Health Services Team, on a voluntary basis.

Reserve Force training

Reserve Force members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts. All members complete Basic Military Training, which covers topics such as rank structure, wearing a uniform, marching, firing a weapon for self-defence or defence of your patients (as per the Geneva Convention), and surviving in a field environment. This training varies in length and is usually available in two-week sessions or on weekends. You must also complete basic occupational training, which teaches you how to employ your clinical skill/profession within the military environment. This training lasts six weeks, is usually available twice a year, in one-, two- or three-week sessions and takes place at the Canadian Forces Health Services Training Centre in Borden, Ontario.

Working environment

Reserve Force members usually serve part-time with their home unit for scheduled evenings and weekends, although they may also serve in full-time positions at some units for fixed terms, depending on the type of work that they do. They are paid 85 percent of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.

Get started!

Find a unit in your area and start the application process for part-time employment now or send an e-mail to the following address for more information: HealthServicesReserves@forces.gc.ca.

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