I am not sure exactly where to start, so I'll start from the beginning. For several years I had contemplated traveling abroad working as a nurse for the US government. At the time, I was an employee of the Indian Health Service with two dependents. I had applied off and on but nothing ever happened. Then, when the last of my flock left home, I decided it was time to spread my wings and become a travel nurse which I did for three years and then promptly fell into a job overseas.
I will attempt to answer those questions.
About pay and working environment
Jobs are usually a three year contract but can be extended up to fve years. For some reason, after five years you must go stateside for one year and then you can look for another overseas position. Regarding travel: Year one - one ticket from the United States to your job. Year two - on your date of hire, you receive ten days of home leave which you can use when you travel stateside in addition to any other leave time that you have. This home leave is yearly. If you extend to five years, in year four you will also receive a return trip fully paid airfare home and back.
Currently, the Department of Defense is undergoing a change in how they pay their civilian employees; they are going from the old GS (General Services) system to a new system called NSPS (National Security Personnel System). As I understand it, with this new system you and your supervisor discuss a plan of objectives you will fulfill within a time frame to meet the "mission" of your facility.
At the end of the time frame, you receive a rating based on these objectives which goes to a panel. The panel then "rewards" you with a pay raise (up to 5% of your salary) and there is also a possibility of a bonus as well. Another positive aspect is that if you apply for a job now, you have more bargaining power regarding your wages than under the old GS system. The drawback (from my understanding of the system) is that if you fail to meet the objectives you could be penalized by a 10% loss in wages.
If you are curious about pay scales under old GS system, go to Federal Jobs Net.
I believe the average pay for a nurse with 15 years experience could be between $46K and $56K annually. This would not include differentials.
I work in a clinic so we have 8/10/12 hour shifts and are open on Saturdays for four hours. I believe military hospitals probably offer 8 and 12 hour shifts which may be rotating. They do offer shift differential for evenings and nights as well as 25% Sunday differential. Patients are usually military, military families, and sometimes civilians. Supervisors are mostly military, but there are some civilian supervisors as well.
They also offer a 401K which you can invest the way that you want in their Thrift Savings Fund. The government matches dollar for dollar up to the first 3% and then fifty cents on the dollar on the 5%. If you are coming from a government job, your benefits will come with you.
In regards to time off, you will start out with 2 weeks a year, plus Federal holidays, and will work your way up to having 30 days leave annually, excluding holidays and home leave.
As for health care/dental, the government offers a variety of plans and you have two months to make your decision. Every year during, "open seasonâ€, you have the option of changing your health care plan. The army allows you to visit their health clinic (no dental for civilians). You have the option of receiving your health care on post or on the economy. Basically, what I have found is that you pay your bill and then fill out the health care providerâ€™s information sheet. You mail it to them and will be reimbursed per your policy.
Finally, another benefit of working for the government is that you can retire in 20 years, so if you start early, you'll be able to retire early, and continue.
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Applying and the advantages
By The Professional Association of Nurse Travelers
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