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Nurse finds calling after his own health scare

2019 National Nurses Week Profile of Navy Lieutenant Kyle Zunk 2019 National Nurses Week Profile of Navy Lieutenant Kyle Zunk

Navy Lt. Kyle Zunk

Assistant division officer, Ambulatory Procedure Unit/Post Anesthesia Care Unit
Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, California


I knew I wanted to be a nurse when I was diagnosed with lymphoma as I was finishing my undergrad degree. I wound up spending 10 days in the hospital. The nursing staff were the ones who provided not only the medical care but also the emotional support, empathy, and optimism to endure numerous difficult situations. They contributed significantly to my success throughout six months of treatment and recovery.

I joined the military because I wanted to support our warfighters. I also wanted to experience situations that would never be possible in the civilian world, including deploying on the USNS Comfort; living in Okinawa, Japan; conducting a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation in South Korea; and providing medical support for World War II veterans.

The best thing about my job is the people. I’ve had the unbelievable pleasure to serve everyone from new recruits straight out of basic training to veterans who fought and sacrificed in places such as Iwo Jima, Japan.

My most prominent memory of being a nurse is my first job, fresh off orientation in the neuroscience intensive care unit. I was working the night shift, and it was the first time I had a patient deteriorate on me. I alone was responsible for managing the patient, informing the physicians of the patient’s condition, collecting the supplies for an emergency bedside procedure, and assisting in the procedure before whisking the patient to the operating room.

I was most challenged when missing holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and even the birth of one of my sons. I’ve chosen a path and a calling that requires I put others before myself — something relatable to anyone in the military and health care.

My most memorable patient experience was caring for the wife of a retired service member during the night after she had coded and then had been revived. I was able to be there for her while also serving as an empathetic presence for her husband and assisting with his needs.

When I’m not in uniform, I’m usually chasing around my two boys, 5-year-old Cameron and 3-year-old Logan; attempting to give my poor wife a sanity break; or cooking dinner while hearing about the adventures my wife and boys were up to while I was at work.

My nurse superpower is never hesitating to speak up when I encounter something I don’t know or understand, and to ask for help whenever I need it. I believe we all need to be comfortable with the realization that no matter how much we know, there is much more that we don’t.

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

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