Warren Shaulis wanted to be a garbage man when growing up. “I loved the idea of riding on the footboard of the truck—which I’m sure later translated into a desire to be a firefighter when I realized that they, too, ‘ride the boards,’ so to speak.”

That desire for the excitement of “riding the boards” has translated into a life of public service and, unintentionally, emergency situations. Warren is an ER/Hospitalist Nurse Practitioner with Crook County Medical Services District in Sundance, Wyoming, as well as an Emergency Nurse Practitioner for Lead-Deadwood Regional Hospital in Deadwood, South Dakota. However, he came later in life to nursing—in his late thirties. In addition to working as a firefighter (for which he was awarded Firefighter of the Year in 2005), he was a military law enforcement officer, including numerous commitments at Arlington National Cemetery and protection details for President Ronald Reagan, Vice President George H.W. Bush, and Prince Charles and Lady Diana; military flight medic; and a civilian Paramedic, instructor, and service leader.

“I hadn’t really considered nursing as a potential career,” he says, “until I had spent a few years in Emergency Medical Services. A lot of people in those two professions don’t understand the similarities, instead focusing on the differences. I always viewed them as two twigs of the same branch. The program I worked for paired a Flight Nurse and Flight Paramedic on every flight. The premise was that we would work as equals; however, each bringing a different background and experiences, teaching each other, so as to provide optimal care.”

That experience also gave Warren exposure to the role of Nurse Practitioners (NP). As someone who has always been hungry for more knowledge, Warren came to regard the role of NP as an opportunity to learn, as well as an opportunity to gain more autonomy and decision-making capability. “I ultimately decided that Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) role would be more useful, allowing me to see patients across the lifespan. It was also the preferred preparation and certification to work in an Emergency Department.”

“Given my background, the FNP certification allowed me to provide quality care—especially since my work has taken me, since graduation, to the Emergency Departments of three different Critical Access Hospitals.” A Critical Access Hospital designation is a designation available to rural hospitals, where residents would otherwise be a long distance from emergency care. Warren also completed a post-masters certificate in Emergency Medicine to prepare him for the Emergency Nurse Practitioner certification (ENP-C). However, the Wyoming Board of Nursing interpreted the 2008 APRN Consensus Model document to mean that FNPs working in the hospitalist role function outside the scope of practice—which brought Warren to Penn Nursing.

“Penn Nursing’s Adult Gerontology Acute Care NP program seemed to be tailored for people in my exact situation—and because the streamlined program is online, it didn’t require me to take an extended leave of absence from my current position, which I enjoy immensely and which would have had a significant impact on our hospital’s ability to provide much needed care and coverage to our community and visitors.”

In a rural area like Deadwood, South Dakota (with a population of less than 1,500), visitors to the community might seem like an inconsequential concern—however, Sturgis, South Dakota and its Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that draws over half a million visitors each year are only a short distance away. It’s an event that requires health care professionals with emergency experience and cool heads. Hospitals, clinics, and urgent care facilities throughout the Black Hills are put on high alert for the ten-day event. Both Warren and his wife are involved with the ambulance service in Sturgis for the rally.

“You never know what kind of call you’re going to get during a rally,” Warren says. “In one of the years past, the ambulance I was working with got paged around midnight to a campground where some rather drunk people accidentally rolled their full-size, lifted pick up truck down a hill and over a tent. While backing up, they dragged the tent (and the quite surprised person that had been asleep inside) into the wheel well. The scene was surreal: the patient was arched backward over the front wheel and tire, with the patient’s head sticking out of the wheel well and feet sticking out from under the front bumper. I was sure we were looking at a patient with a broken back in multiple places. My ambulance crew worked with local firefighters and the Life Flight helicopter we’d called—and I later found that the patient had been discharged with only some abrasions and muscle strain—the patient was very flexible and very lucky. We try to practice lots of scenarios in our Emergency Department and with our EMS team to help us prepare for the unexpected as best as possible, but that was definitely unique.”

With Warren’s ability to remain calm under pressure, something he attributes to his education, mentoring, and military experience, what’s next for him may include a move toward a faculty position. “I am fortunate to work with two academic Emergency Nurse Practitioners, a husband and wife team who have expressed interest in my working with them in a faculty capacity at their respective programs, which would mean a return to school to complete my Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.”

Random fact: Despite the fact that Warren flew on helicopters for 16 years and has been involved in rock climbing, high angle rescue and rappelling, as well as climbing ladders in the fire service for much of his adult life, he is terrified of heights.