What Do Military Nurses Do?

Female nurse making visit to soldier male sitting in wheelchair

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If you are looking for a career in the military that allows you to apply medical knowledge and help people, you probably have questions like, “Can I become a military nurse?” and “What do military nurses do?” Learn more about how service as a military nurse can help you hone your skills as a medical professional and give you unique and invaluable experiences.  

The life of a military nurse depends in part on the type of care they provide, the setting for care, and the branch of the armed forces that they work in.

Types of Nursing in the Military

Military life involves sacrifice and trust. Nurses in the military dedicate their lives, or a substantial part of them, to defending the United States, its interests, and its allies. In turn, when they suffer health problems or injuries, they count on a robust and dedicated healthcare system that will meet their needs.

As a military nurse, you will be part of a cutting-edge network that meets myriad medical needs in countries around the world.

Critical Care Nurses

Students who want a challenge will find the responsibilities of a critical care nurse both rewarding and demanding. Patients in need of critical care need nurses who are resourceful, quick, resilient, and agile to deliver efficient care under pressure.

Nurses in Military Hospitals

Military hospitals are complex centers of medical knowledge and innovation. As a nurse in a military facility that provides health care, you will have the opportunity to help serve people with serious injuries recover from burns, regain the use of their limbs, and rebuild their lives after battlefield injuries. Nurses in military hospitals also treat veterans who have left the service.

Combat Nurses

Combat nurses and medics are often the only source of immediate medical care for soldiers, sailors, marines, and other service people. The modern battlefield is different from the days when television shows like MASH popularized health care in the military. As a combat nurse, you will use state-of-the-art technology and medical science to stabilize and treat injured soldiers. 

Once you find the courage and presence of mind to provide medical care in a firefight, you will be ready to handle just about any challenge. 

Nurses in the U.S. Military Branches

Nurses fulfill similar roles in every branch of the military, but the different functions of each branch lead to slightly different answers to the question, “What do military nurses do?” Pursuing a career in military nursing gives you many options for service.

Air Force

Nurses in the Air Force play a vital role in aeromedical evacuations. As an air nurse, you have the opportunity to provide intensive care and life support services as part of an Aeromedical Evacuation Liaison Team (AELT). AELTs transport and care for seriously injured personnel from remote locations which might otherwise not receive medical care in time to save their lives.


The Army Nurse Corps has well over a century of history providing medical care for American soldiers in peacetime and through many of the nation’s defining conflicts.

Coast Guard

The Coast Guard needs nurses to tend to stranded or shipwrecked individuals in U.S. waters and to provide medical care to Coast Guard personnel who sustain injuries in the line of duty.


The marines have a rough-and-ready reputation partly because they venture into some of the most dangerous situations on Earth. Nurses with the U.S. Marine Corps face unique challenges that develop character. 


Naval nursing involves working with other medical professionals in naval facilities and aboard ships, typically providing medical care to sailors and other naval personnel.

Space Force

The Space Force is the newest branch of the military. As it grows, so will the need for nurses to support Space Force personnel on the ground and eventually provide medical care on spacecraft and space stations.

Benefits of a Career in Military Nursing

Students who pursue a career in military nursing can earn upward of $40,000 and as much as $100,000 for clinical nurses with a master’s degree. The military will pay for tuition and licensing expenses to incentivize applicants to meet the growing need for nursing staff across the military branches. For information on related careers in the military that you can explore with a nursing degree, visit this guide

Like many other military careers, military nursing makes you eligible for additional training, low-interest home loans, health coverage, and retirement benefits. They and their families receive support from the federal government in many areas of their lives.

Preparing for a Career in Military Nursing

A bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN) is good preparation for the licensure (NCLEX) exam. A master of science degree in nursing (MSN) opens up more career opportunities in nursing education, informatics, and nursing leadership. After earning your degree, working as a civilian nurse can help you develop skills you can draw upon later as a military nurse.

When you are ready to find a job as a military nurse, contact a recruiter to explore your options.

Military nurses do not attend basic training “boot camp.” Instead, they receive officer training. The experiences and training you receive as a military nurse can help you develop leadership and other career skills in addition to nursing skills.

Choose a college with a history of supporting students in the military and preparing students for military service. Colleges promote networking, exploration, and professional development. Colleges that understand the obligations of students in the military and military families are often better equipped to help their students balance student life and military life.

Secure a Future in Medicine with a Career as a Military Nurse 

Do you want a career as a military nurse but need more information? MilitarySupportiveColleges.com is a resource for current and prospective students like you who are looking for careers in the United States Armed Forces. In addition to answering questions about career paths like “What do military nurses do?” we provide practical career advice in many fields, focusing on opportunities within the branches of the military.