As if helping save lives in a hospital emergency room isn’t exciting enough of a career, try doing the same thing in the middle of a war zone.

Kirsten MacFadyen has been to Afghanistan once, as a civilian. But that experience was enough to convince her that joining the armed forces and becoming a nurse was the right career for her.

“I haven’t been to Afghanistan as a nurse, but I deployed to Kabul on tour as a civilian before I joined,” said the 33-year-old from Innisfail, Alta. “It enabled me to get a good feel for what the military was about and helped me to make an informed decision about joining.”

MacFadyen joined the armed forces three years ago and became a nurse two years ago. She said the armed forces provides her with a variety of opportunities beyond traditional nursing roles — and all of the additional training that she took outside of nursing school was provided by the military.

“We take a variety of military courses, including basic officer training, nursing specific courses, field training and second language training,” MacFadyen said. “As a person advances in rank and responsibilities, different training opportunities become available.”

MacFadyen said she became a nurse because she likes change. She likes to be challenged personally and professionally as well as mentally and physically. The armed forces provided her with all of that, but she says joining the military might not be for everyone.

“It’s not a job for everyone. You must be OK with a constantly changing environment, and be adaptable and flexible,” she said. “You may be away from home and family for long periods of time, and can be living in austere conditions. As an officer, you can expect to move every few years to locations all over Canada. A person needs to be OK with all of this in order to have a successful and happy career.”

MacFadyen said the military family helps ease the burden of being away from home.

“You become part of a tight-knit community, and share experiences that will bond you to your comrades for life,” she said. “It’s not a career for everyone, but it is a career unlike any other.”

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