Indiana University Kokomo

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KOKOMO, Ind. – Shawn Owings was one of the first women to be immersed in the front lines in Iraq.

Shawn OwingsShawn OwingsShe worked beside a platoon of men who were leery of her assistance. Her commander chose her to be a medic with his security detail to care for injured women. Iraqi's would rather their wounded women suffer injuries, or even death, than to break a cultural belief that women should not be touched by men other than their father. Therefore, Owings participated in raids and was present for battles that aren't always acceptable for women in the military.

"Most of the men had only trained with other men as combat arms," Owings said. "It was a struggle, but eventually, I became one of them and earned their trust and respect. Doing the work I did still remains a controversial issue for women in the military."

Owings, a senior majoring in nursing at Indiana University Kokomo, worked as an Army medic for seven years. In addition to working with the security team, she worked side-by-side other doctors and nurses. This experience helped guide her to pursue a career in nursing.

"My experience and what I learned in the military carried over into my education and helped me to better understand the concepts that I learned in nursing school," Owings said.

It taught her important life lessons and not to take things for granted. Owings has a different level of acceptance than before going to Iraq.

"Being in Iraq opened my eyes to seeing other's struggles firsthand," she said. "I am more compassionate, understanding, and accepting toward people now."

She also spent time working in Germany for a few years. At first, she experienced culture shock, but without a doubt, she would travel back to Germany.

"Learning about a different culture and their values was extremely interesting," Owings said. "Even going out to eat was a task at first, but you learn to love it. I greatly enjoyed the public transportation system."

Owings would enjoy traveling back to Europe to visit parts of England.

This past summer, she completed an internship through the VA Learning Opportunities Residency (VALOR) Program. This program gives students who have completed their junior year in a clinical program an opportunity to work at a VA-approved health care facility. The internship lasted 10 weeks at Minneapolis Veterans Hospital. Upon completion, they offered Owings a job once she graduates this May.

"I am excited to pursue an opportunity in the VA health system and be able to give back to veterans in that capacity," Owings said.

The internship focused on critical care nursing. The patients needed intense care and close monitoring. She enjoyed tending to her patients and giving them the support they needed.

Owings always knew she wanted to help people in the medical field. She grew up with a goal of going to medical school and being a doctor.

"There is something different about working as a nurse and really connecting with your patients," Owings said. "The one-on-one interaction is truly awesome."

Once she receives her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, she plans to move to Minnesota to work at Minneapolis Veterans Hospital. She hopes to begin a B.S.N. to Doctor of Nursing Practice program, and eventually work as a nurse practitioner.

She is thrilled to begin working, but will miss IU Kokomo's campus and community.

"I feel like I fit in at IU Kokomo, and I've always been treated with respect," Owings said. "I was treated like an equal among nursing faculty, and it was a humbling experience."

She tutors for the nursing program, and has done some minor work in the Student Nurses Association. Owings enjoys studying the heart, as "it is a fascinating organ." Owings loves to go fishing and relax in her cabin in Minnesota. One day, she would like to go skydiving if she can overcome her fear of heights.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.