Officer to Nursing Program

General Mark Welsh III, Air Force Chief of Staff, acknowledged in an interview in July 2012 that an ongoing need for recruitment and retention of medical personnel due to "competition with the private sector and other federal agencies for talented professionals from career fields where shortages exist. Adding to this challenge are issues such as pay disparity with the civilian sector and deployments." Additionally, Major General Kimberly Siniscalchi, Assistance Surgeon General, declared in her address to the Senate Appropriations Committee that “…we continue to pursue ways to alleviate deficits in field grade authorizations. Our goal is to improve retention of the uniquely trained experienced military nurse and increase return on investment for advanced education.” General Welsh states that there are educational programs available through the Air Force, limited to USUHS, HPSP, IPAP, and NECP. These programs are only available to current health professionals, civilians or enlisted. There is no denying that there is a dire need for nurses in not just the Air Force, but across all services and even extending into the civilian sector. The Air force is attacking this shortage in two ways, retaining nurses with the offer of higher education opportunities and increasing the nurse inventory be enticing enlisted and civilian personnel to become military nurses. However, the Air force is missing an opportunity by not enticing members of the office corps to become military nurses.

Officers that commission through ROTC or USAFA typically have a limited choice as to what their careers in the Air Force can be once they graduate. Many are awarded an AFSC without regard to their degree or interests, that is to say “needs of the Air Force,” and they become dissatisfied with the service. A way to retain some of these officers and the investment made in them is to offer them the education needed to cross-train into a career field more closely aligned to their degree and interests. The officer is more motivated to a full career and the AF fills critical positions. To those that believe this program would be a waste of time, money and resources, let me assure you it is not.

• Officers are encouraged to all gain master’s degrees by the time they become a Major, for which the Air Force is more than willing to pay. This targets young CGOs who are still learning their current careers by attending technical schools and continual training. If an officer to nursing program is implemented, there are 74 schools across the U.S. that offer direct entry programs for nursing. These programs would allow officers to gain the education needed for nursing and no longer need the training or master’s for their current job. The direct entry program is available for people who have a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing, but would like to pursue an MSN. Due to the amount of time spent on clinicals and the course load, these programs are not offered part time.

• This program would pull from a pool of highly motivated individuals whom have already dedicated service to their country, as opposed to individuals who may have wanted to simply pay off their student loans. This would also lead to career officers, as opposed to getting out after their commitment. This concept applies to both nurses who want their loans paid or other officers who are not satisfied with their jobs. Currently, there is an opportunity for all Airmen to gain higher education, called the Educational Leave Program. This program requires that the individual complete their original commitment, either 4 years or 5 years depending on their commissioning source, in order to go to school full time. Once that person completes the commitment, the individual may choose to also separate from the Air Force and move into the civilian sector instead of pursuing an education through the military. By allowing individuals to gain the education needed in order to cross train, the Air Force will be able to recruit and retain more nurses.

• The Air Force, through AFIT, does send current nurses who only have their BSN to school to complete their MSN. These three factors all conclude that the Air Force is currently spending this money on the same level of education for officers, but not allowing members to cross train.

I propose that this Officer to Nursing Program be implemented in the following ways: • Allow CGOs from any career field the opportunity to cross train into nursing by first going to one of the 74 schools in the U.S. full-time that offers a direct entry program. • Complete the direct entry program within 2 years • Pay back the Air Force with an additional commitment on a month for month basis: every month the Air Force pays for school, a month is added to the individual’s commitment • Individual must meet all prerequisites for the school they wish to attend • Individual will maintain their Active Duty Status • Individual does not need to complete their initial commitment before attending school

Alignment to Quadruple Aims

  1. Readiness: Total military force is medically ready to deploy and medical force is ready to deliver health care a. This proposal increases the amount of medical personnel, specifically nurses, increases the amount of care provided; by taking officers, they are already fit for deployment

  2. Population Health: Encourage healthy behaviors and decrease illness through prevention and increased resilience a. By gaining a higher level of education and gathering people of different backgrounds, medical personnel will be able to develop creative and diverse means for promotion and implementation

  3. Experience of Care: Patient and family centered, compassionate, equitable, safe, and always highest quality a. Sending the officers to gain their master’s immediately will increase the number of highly trained nurses, thus improving access and reducing waiting times, returning patients back to the work force to accomplish the mission

  4. Per Capita Cost: Focus on quality, eliminate waste and reduce unwarranted variation, total cost of care over time a. This proposal does not waste money on individuals who only pay back their commitment, but instead invests in career officers thus reducing costs and improving quality

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