Nurse shortage hits U.S. military

Rachel Polchek

Lt. Col. says armed forces have increased need for medical aides

National demand for registered nurses is increasing, and the military is no exception.

In July 2008, there were nearly 20,000 Registered Nurse vacancies in the United States, according to the American Health Care Association.

“There’s a greater demand for nurses because we started using them more,” Lt. Col. Lowell E. Bailey Jr. said. “Nurses do more now. They’re taking on more responsibilities.”

He said military nurses are a hot commodity.

Military nurses in active duty must be able to care for soldiers and pilots suffering from minor injuries to near-death emergencies. Flight nurses must be able to take care of patients while riding on an airplane to the nearest hospital or clinic, Bailey said.

Many bases are forced to downsize from field hospitals to clinics because of the lack of (nurse) involvement, he said.

There are currently four nursing students in Air Force ROTC, Bailey said. This does not include freshmen or sophomores because they are technically not accepted into the nursing program yet.

Air Force ROTC offers scholarships and a monthly stipend to most cadets of any major. Express scholarships are offered to nursing students. An Express scholarship is not offered to a nursing student in the ROTC program until he or she is accepted in the nursing program.

Air Force ROTC scholarships can pay up to 100 percent of a cadet’s tuition.

“Students are usually accepted into the program after their sophomore year,” Bailey said. “We need a letter of acceptance from the nursing school.”

Kristina Hoge is a senior in the nursing program and between her junior and senior years in the ROTC program.

“For my first three years of college, ROTC didn’t even cross my mind,” she said.

Hoge came to Kent State with the intention of becoming a doctor. After her first year, she decided to major in nursing instead because she knew there was a shortage and a guaranteed job after graduation, she said.

Hoge became interested in the ROTC program after learning she could train to be a flight nurse.

“I really like to fly. I like heights. I like jumping out of air planes and off buildings,” she said. “I decided to take the military route.”

She has always had an interest in the military, she said.

Additional post-graduation training is required for flight nurses.

“You can take the place of a doctor if there is no doctor on the plane, so there’s a lot of training involved,” Hoge said.

Hoge accepted the Express scholarship from ROTC for nursing and signed for six years. “They paid for my school, and after I graduate I go in (active duty),” she said.

After graduation, nurses are commissioned as a second lieutenant like all other cadets, Bailey said.

Hoge is graduating in December.

“I’m nervous, happy, anxious and kind of scared,” she said. “I can’t really describe it.”

Contact ROTC reporter Rachel Polchek at [email protected].