WMU Army ROTC nurse graduate holding up a heart made with a stethoscope.

Interested in nursing?

What does it take to be an Army nurse? The answer isn't just white shoes and a stethoscope. It's not just sharp clinical skills coupled with the attributes of understanding and compassion. It is much, much more.

The profession demands the ability to think on your feet in an emergency. The ability to intuitively evaluate a situation, determine the best course of action, and take charge, which is precisely what Army ROTC is uniquely designed to teach.

Army ROTC is not boot camp or basic training. But, unlike most college courses that teach one discipline, Army ROTC teaches leadership skills that translate to any field, whether it be law, engineering, or, in your case, nursing.

As a nursing student in the Army ROTC Bronco Battalion, you'll combine military science classes and a summer internship known as Nurse Summer Training Program with your regular Western Michigan University Bronson School of Nursing program. The result upon graduation is a presidential appointment as a commissioned officer in the Army Nurse Corps. Nursing students at Grand Valley State University, Davenport University, Hope and Calvin colleges are also eligible to participate in ROTC at Western Michigan University.

The Nurse Summer Training Program is a voluntary three- to four-week clinical experience for nurse cadets between their third and fourth years of school. During this program, nurse cadets will be assigned to a preceptor—a serving Army nurse—at one of the Army Medical Centers or Army Community Hospitals in the continental United States, Hawaii or Europe. Program cadets are assigned to a ward and gain hands-on experience in all aspects of clinical nursing.

1901-2001, United States Army Nurse Corps

Advancement and compensation

As a newly commissioned Army nurse you will earn a base pay and allowance of a second lieutenant around $42,000 per year (2009 pay chart). This will increase to around $53,000 after two years and up to $70,000 in as little as four years. The raises continue to increase at a generous rate throughout a career in the Army to where a lieutenant colonel with 20 years in service makes around $109,000. After 20 years, an Army nurse will qualify for a full retirement with benefits equaling 50 percent of their base pay for life.

As you progress in the Army, your rank and level of responsibility will also increase. It is not uncommon to see a staff nurse become a head nurse in just three or four years. To help you advance professionally, the Army Nurse Corps offers courses in a wide range of nursing specialties. This takes place around the end of the second year of service. Specialties include:

  • Ob/Gyn nursing prepares you for uncomplicated and complicated antepartum, intrapartum, postpartum and gynecological patients. The Ob-Gyn course lasts 16 weeks and is offered at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii.

  • Critical care nursing trains nurses in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, physics, CPR, inhalation therapy, diagnostics, psychological and sociological problems, and ethical and legal considerations in the care of critically ill patients. This is a 16-week course conducted at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington State, or at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

  • Perioperative nursing prepares a nurse for all phases of operating room nursing, including advanced skills related to surgery and the principles and techniques of supervising and managing an operating room. The perioperative nursing course lasts 16 weeks and is taught at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Madigan Army Medical Center and Brooke Army Medical Center.
  • Psych/mental health nursing prepares the Army nurse to provide specialized care to emotionally distressed individuals both as inpatients and outpatients. The psych/mental health nursing course is 16 weeks and is offered at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
  • Community health nursing provides skills and knowledge in preventive medicine at an entry level. This is a nine-week course at the Army Medical Department Center and School at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.
  • Emergency nursing prepares the nurse to function in any clinical setting that meets the environmental nursing standard for emergency nursing. The focus is on the fundamentals of emergency nursing such as respiratory and cardiovascular disease, hematology/oncology, trauma management, hepatic disorders and infectious diseases. The emergency nursing course is 16 weeks and is offered at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Getting started at WMU

The Bronson School of Nursing guarantees admission to the professional nursing program for ROTC cadets who meet specific criteria. This may include direct admission to the professional nursing program for high school seniors.

2nd Lt. Erin Mellem

2nd Lt. Erin Mellem becomes the first Army nurse commissioned from the Bronson School of Nursing

Nursing students or pre-nursing students can get started a number of different ways. Freshman and sophomore pre-nursing students can simply register for one of the one-credit military science electives without obligation to explore career opportunities as an Army nurse. Once in class, you will have the opportunity to learn what it takes to be an Army officer.

Many times a nursing student's academic standing (sophomore, junior, senior) does not accurately reflect the time remaining to complete the nursing degree. If you have at least two years remaining before graduation, you may become eligible for ROTC by attending the Leader's Training Course the summer before your junior nursing year. The Leader's Training Course is a 28-day leadership and training experience at Fort Knox, Ky. It is designed to help prepare students who have not been involved in ROTC and have no prior military experience to enter into the two-year Army ROTC program.

Exceptionally qualified candidates may be eligible to have the requirement to attend the Leader's Training Course waived by completing the Accelerated Cadet Commissioning Training program, which consists of approximately 20 hours of seminar and class meetings to help prospective nurse cadets catch up and be prepared to enter the final two years of Army ROTC. ACCT is taught on WMU's campus and can be conducted in the summer or early fall.