When he enlisted in the Army Reserve, Shawn Tulp didn’t plan on becoming a nurse. He grew up as an Army brat, and he knew that he wanted to serve, just like his father. He didn’t have a set career path, however. Then his recruiter mentioned that Shawn could become a practical nurse in the Military. Both Shawn and his mother were intrigued because they thought nursing would provide Shawn with many civilian career opportunities.
“It was actually my mother, the wise sage, who said, ‘If you get training like that, not only can you use that in your civilian life to provide an income for yourself and a career path, but once you have something like that, no one can ever take it away from you.’ ”
Shawn followed his mother’s advice and began training for a nursing career. While taking nursing classes at Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz., and the University of Phoenix, he also took the Army medic course and the Army’s practical nurse course.
“When I finished my first degree in college, one of the other officers in my unit told me, ‘Hey, why don’t you put in your packet for a commission?’ I took her up on the offer, got all my paperwork together and submitted it and before I knew it, I was all of a sudden a newly minted second lieutenant.”
Shawn has deployed twice, once to Landstuhl, Germany, and once to Afghanistan. At Landstuhl, he worked in the intensive care unit (ICU). In Afghanistan, he was the commander of a surgical element, where he took care of servicemembers, Afghan civilians and members of the Afghan Military.
“When you go on deployments, you’re all in. You’re gone for a year. You’ll endure hardships, you’ll endure rough times but you’ll also endure good times. You’ll make strong friends, and you’ll learn about yourself, not to mention that you’ll advance your practice as a nurse farther than you could ever imagine.”
Now an operations and training officer, Shawn works for the 437th medical company, based at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif. He sets the training schedule and helps prepare field training exercises for the ground ambulance company. Training other Soldiers is the aspect of the job that Shawn enjoys most.
“They feel like they’re getting something out of it that will help them down the road when they’re called upon to deploy again and perhaps have a Soldier’s life in their hands.”
In his civilian life, Shawn is a flight nurse who cares for patients while they are in transport. He works with patients who are being flown in helicopters from one hospital to another, or he helps move patients from the scene of an accident to the hospital.
“I’m able to bring a lot of my experiences from flight nursing directly over to this ground ambulance unit to help teach them about patient care scenarios or help train their medics to a higher standard.”
Soon, Shawn will begin a master’s degree program for nurse anesthesia at Midwestern University in Glendale, Ariz. The funding for Shawn’s studies will come from the GI Bill and the Military’s specialized training assistance program. Once he gets his degree, Shawn hopes to return to his Army Reserve unit, where he will continue to build a career in the field he loves.
“Nursing and I just meshed, and I have to thank the Army for that. I never would have gone in that direction had that not been offered to me as a career option.”