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A nursing career like none other

May 25, 2023

Stephanie Williams
Stephanie Williams left her traditional hospital-based career and joined the staff of the Schenck Job Corps center as a nurse in 2020. In just two years, Williams was promoted twice and now serves as Health and Wellness Director. (USDA Forest Service photo by Michael Holmes)

When you hear the term “nurse,” you probably visualize a modern-day superhero toiling in a hospital or nursing home—not necessarily a USDA Forest Service Job Corps center. In the aftermath of a public health crisis, this is hardly surprising.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, nurse Stephanie Williams jumped on USA Jobs to find a position that met her twin goals of escaping the confines of a hospital and settling in the mountains of North Carolina.

“I found an ambiguous posting for a nurse with the Forest Service,” said Williams. “I contacted the manager hiring the position at the time. They gave me more information about Job Corps, and it sounded like a rewarding and interesting position.”

Forest Service Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers have provided educational and vocational technical training programs to underserved youth ages 16 through 24 for over 50 years. After learning of the excellent benefits that come with federal service, particularly health insurance and retirement plans, Williams was sold. She joined the staff of the Schenck Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center as a nurse in 2020.

Over the span of two years, Williams, who holds a Bachelor of Science Nursing degree and certification as a bariatric nurse, earned promotions to the position of health and wellness manager and then to the health and wellness director position.

Williams measures a student’s blood pressure during a routine physical.
Williams measures a student’s blood pressure during a routine physical. Her medical department, comprised of a nurse, licensed clinical social worker, substance abuse counselor, medical doctor, nurse practitioner, dentist, dental assistant, and dental hygienist. oversees the health of up to 156 students. (USDA Forest Service photo by Michael Holmes)

As the health and wellness director, Williams supervises two federal and six contract employees – a nurse, licensed clinical social worker, substance abuse counselor, medical doctor, nurse practitioner, dentist, dental assistant, and dental hygienist. When Schenck Job Corps reaches full capacity, this team of health care professionals will oversee the healthcare of almost 200 students.

“The nursing staff work as case managers to help the students navigate their medical, mental health, dental, and substance use prevention needs,” said Williams. “We provide direct care in the clinic and assist with health and wellness education in the classroom.”

The idiom, “It takes a village,” is applicable to a conservation center campus. Staff members take an integrated approach to care for students and that starts with a healthy mind and body. A conservation center nurse must have open communication with staff across center, particularly education, trade, and residential staffs.

Nursing on a Job Corps center goes deeper than just physical care Williams typically provided in a hospital setting. For her, it also means being a mentor, teacher and confidant to young people at a critical time in their lives.

Even in the brief time some students are on-center, Williams gets to know many of them quite well. Her staff develops rapport with the students through the little things in their lives which makes it easier for students to talk about their more difficult physical and mental health challenges. She is sensitive to the difficult childhoods many of them must work to overcome.

Schenck Job Corps medical staff discuss a student’s lab results and treatment plan.
Schenck Job Corps medical staff discuss a student’s lab results and treatment plan. The Job Corps program takes an integrated approach to care for students, which starts with a healthy mind and body. (USDA Forest Service photo by Michael Holmes)

An immeasurable reward of being a Job Corps staff member is the opportunity to impact positive generational change. Williams meets new students early in their Job Corps tenure and delights in watching them grow into successful young adults.

“I absolutely love my job. I love the interaction we get with the students every single day,” said Williams.

She particularly enjoys seeing students open themselves up to new experiences and adventures.

“Often time, these young men and women have spent their entire lives in metropolitan areas, and have never seen a forest,” said Williams. “It is exciting to see them get this close to nature for the first time – whether that means going on a hike, going tubing down the Davidson River or sending off the camp crew to assist wildland firefighters across the country.”

Reflecting on how little she knew about the Job Corps program before arriving at Schenck, Williams wishes more Americans knew about the program. She wants to help educate the public about career opportunities and the many emotional and financial benefits of working as a nurse on a Job Corps campus. She particularly appreciates that her day-to-day stress level is at a happy medium.

Schenck Job Corps Health and Wellness Director, Stephanie Williams chats with a Job Corps student.
Schenck Job Corps Health and Wellness Director, Stephanie Williams chats with a Job Corps student. Nursing on a Job Corps center goes deeper than just physical care Williams typically provided in a hospital setting. For her, it also means being a mentor, teacher and confidant to young people. (USDA Forest Service photo by Michael Holmes)

“We give our students an incredible opportunity to improve their situations. They come here to learn a vocational trade, but they have the ability to do so much more,” said Williams. “Whether a student needs to finish high school, get a driver’s license, or just learn life skills – they get all of that through our program. It is genuinely gratifying to witness a government program be so monumental in the lives of so many deserving young people.”

In the end, Williams is glad she joined the Forest Service as a Job Corps nurse.

“I’d only go back to a hospital setting if you forced me to,” said Williams. “Working as a CCC nurse is rewarding, challenging, and fun! I absolutely love being able to work in the forest.”

Are you a nurse looking for a job like no other? Come work at a Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center? You can help harness the enormous potential of young people while unlocking opportunities for professional growth and career advancement. Join us at the Forest Service Job Corps Career Fair on June 8, 2023, at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Asheville, NC from 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. Visit the Forest Service Job Corps Career Fair and Hiring Event webpage here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/working-with-us/jobs/recruitment-and-hiring/job-corps-career-fair-and-hiring-event

 

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https://www.fs.usda.gov/features/nursing-career-none-other