Tishon Creswell had a college degree in mind after graduating high school, but she knew it would need to wait a couple of years.
“The Montgomery GI bill paid for my school. My education was my main goal when I went into service. My mom was a single parent, and I had to have a plan to go to school,” said Creswell, a nurse who works as the hub-and-spoke manager at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center’s Spinal Cord Injury Unit. Augusta is the hub for seven VA medical centers in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.
In August at its national conference, the Paralyzed Veterans of America honored Creswell with an Excellence Award for her service to the more than 1,400 veterans with spinal cord injuries in the region.
“The Excellence Award recognizes clinicians who have achieved national recognition and leadership and demonstrated exceptional professional achievement, contributions and advocacy for spinal cord injury/disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury healthcare,” according to a news release from the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center.
Creswell, who holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the Medical College of Georgia and a master’s degree in nursing from Clayton State University, almost didn’t go into the field.
She worked in administration while she was in the Army and was considering becoming a school teacher after separating from the military. However, a counselor talked to her about nursing.
“Nursing is so versatile,” she said. “You wear all the hats.”
And sometimes, one of the hats she wears is of a teacher. As the spinal cord coordinator, she often trains others in the region.
Going to the PVA conference helped Creswell network with other professionals outside of her region, and she’s been able to share with them her best practices. She said she would like to be a presenter at next year’s conference.
Although nursing might not have been part of the initial plan, Creswell, who is currently working on her doctorate, said there’s one aspect of her career that wasn’t a second choice, and that’s working with veterans. She enjoyed her military experience.
“When you are in the Army, you are a soldier on the weekend; you are a soldier all day long. I enjoyed every bit of it,” she said.
With her time in the military, she feels she can relate better with her patients.
“I can relate to the lingo, and when I say ‘I’m a veteran,’ I feel they respect me more. It sparks a conversation about where we’ve been,” she said.