Serving in the Army Reserve: Health Care Specialist

PFC Trevor Whipker discusses his role as a Health Care Specialist in the Army Reserve and how that role has helped him excel at his civilian duties as an ER nurse.

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Training in the field, you never know what to expect. It could be rain, sun or wind. Also, you never know what kind of patient you’re gonna see out there. Anything can happen. You have to be able to treat all of those, and especially under a high stress condition.

In the Army Reserve Health Care Specialist training, you learn to suppress fire first, and then treat the patient second. So you still have all the action with the infantry men have, but also the knowledge and know-how to treat the patient.

They have the nickname of “Doc” when you’re out in the battlefield because you’re just the sole provider of the medical healthcare. The Healthcare Specialist is a jack of all trades. You get trained in ICU, ER, radiology, and also working as a line medic.

The Army Reserve gave me the skills and confidence to excel in my civilian profession. I do have the best of both worlds working as a combat medic in the U.S. Army Reserve and as a ER nurse. The ER work that I do helps me keep on my medical skills, such as IVs and patient assessment. Now that I’m in the Army Reserve, I can’t imagine my life without it.


I’m in my sixth year of being an Army Reserve soldier. I’ve, you know, been on multiple missions within the United States, helping teach non-medical units medical type situations.

So last summer, three medics, including myself, were tasked to go to a special mission at Camp Atterbury and teach non-medical units basic lifesaving skills before their deployment. It was a situation where we went into the classroom and talked about basic pressure managing, turnikits, and how to help your buddy when he’s down.

The skills I learned in ER nursing helped me to be a better teacher. As I’m learning how to educate patients on certain symptoms and what to not do in certain situations, I’m able to take that back to my unit and help educate other soldiers that may not be in a medical role civilian side.

The training in the Army Reserve instilled the confidence in me to excel as a trauma nurse and to not back away from the situation. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot, but I feel like I have a lot more to go and I think the Army Reserve is guiding me in the right direction.


Being an ER nurse is different. I mean, you don’t know what’s gonna come through the doors. You don’t know what kind of patients you’re going to see or who you’re going to really influence. There’s such a variety of patients. You can have somebody as little as 7-days old to somebody that’s 103.

To be a good ER nurse you need to be able to listen to the patient. They also need to know the signs and the symptoms, uh, what the patient is presenting with, what medicines are used to treat it. And in case the doctor’s not there, what kind of dosage are you giving these medications at.

Your blood pressure’s 80/40.

The Army Reserve prepared me for the high-level octane that’s in the Emergency Room. Being cool under pressure means a lot. The patient feels more confident in your care. It makes the other nurses feel better about being in the same situation as you. I feel like the other nurses see the skills that I have and also the doctors give me a different kind of respect. The incredible trauma skills that I learned in the Army Reserve allowed me to excel on the civilian side.

The civilian ER helps me to maintain my sense of confidence in myself, but also helps me refine my medical skills in a situation where I can bring back into the Army. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without the Army Reserve.