CBSHS Alumni Spotlight: Jennifer Nielson, Army veteran and nurse
Since graduating Clemson University 11 years ago, Jennifer Nielson has traveled the world and the United States during her time in the U.S. Army, and has now settled back down in the Upstate as a Transitional Care Coordinator for AnMed Health. She’s not only making an impact in her community through her job, but also through the community cycling activities she organizes. In between bike rides, Nielson had some time to talk about how Clemson prepared her for a career in health care.
Describe your career path since graduating Clemson. What led you on this path?
I believe my love for athletics has always made the medical field of prime interest, but it took me a year to figure out exactly where I fit into the medical world and what my calling was. Nursing school was the perfect challenge and has led to an exciting career with an opportunity to serve others. While at Clemson, I was also enrolled in the Army ROTC program. I am third-generation Army. I spent the majority of my life moving all over the United States and overseas due to my father’s military career. I was eager to follow in his footsteps and serve my country, so Army ROTC was a natural path for me in my college years.
I graduated from Clemson University in 2008 with my bachelor’s degree in nursing, and then, I commissioned into the U.S. Army. I was first stationed at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Germany, where I was primarily assigned to the pediatric ward. After about 2.5 years, which included a promotion to first lieutenant, I was reassigned to General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital (GLWACH) at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, where I served in an adult medical surgical unit and then in the PACU/Recovery Room as an interim nurse supervisor. During that time, I was promoted to captain.
After my four-year military commitment ended in 2013, I transitioned back to civilian life. My husband and I returned to Clemson, and I have since pursued a nursing career.
What is your current job?
As a transitional care coordinator for AnMed Health, my current focus is on hospital readmission prevention strategies. I work closely with post-acute service providers, including skilled nursing facilities and home health, to ensure safe and successful transitions for all of our patients.
What is your typical work week like?
I spend three days of the week working with three local skilled nursing facilities, following and assisting with the transition of AnMed patients to rehabilitation, and then with their transition to home from the skilled facilities. Two days a week, I facilitate a multidisciplinary re-admission meeting to ensure all available resources and options have been provided for our patients with complex medical and social needs. I also assist with staffing the call center for our discharge follow-up calls throughout the week.
What is a really cool thing about your job?
The coolest thing about my current job is the incredible opportunity I have to be the one to connect all of the dots and work with a multidisciplinary team to help solve problems and support incredibly complex patients, medically and socially.
Are there any job experiences that stick out as particularly memorable?
My most exciting nursing experiences came during my first two years in the Army, when I was stationed at LRMC, which was a home base for United States and ally soldiers injured in theater. Standing in the emergency room bay waiting to help unload injured soldiers from buses and take them to their units for medical care is an experience I will never forget. Meeting soldiers from other countries who relied on this U.S. base for medical care their home countries could not provide was eye-opening and beyond special. I was put in situations where I had to step up and lead fellow nurses and medics, and it was an incredible chance for personal and professional growth.
How did Clemson prepare you for your current career?
There is no doubt that Clemson’s robust nursing program prepared me with all of the clinical and critical thinking skills I needed to go out into my first nursing job and succeed. The comprehensive clinical courses provided me with a solid skill set. Excellent instructors and leadership helped me manage the stresses of nursing school in a constructive way and grow from semester to semester.
Clemson’s Army ROTC program catapulted my military career. It provided me with the knowledge and skills needed to rank highly among fellow cadets at the Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC) in Fort Lewis, Washington between my sophomore and junior year. Through ROTC, I was able to complete my externship at Triple Army Medical Center in Hawaii. Success in nursing school, summer programs and ROTC classes all gave me my first pick of duty stations, which led me to the hospital in Germany.
Clemson’s School of Nursing and Army ROTC programs gave me all the tools I needed to launch my career as a nurse and an officer.
Do you do any community outreach work?
Cycling has been my passion ever since my days on the Clemson University Cycling team. I even met my husband when I was working part-time in a bike shop in Anderson during my time at Clemson. When I got out of the Army, I turned my attention to racing mountain bikes competitively.
In 2015, my husband and I decided to follow our passion for cycling and opened a bicycle shop in Clemson, SouthPaw Cycles, which has given me a platform to reach out to the women of the greater Clemson area by finding ways to encourage physical fitness and empower them through this cycling experience. I’ve started bike rides, offered cycling clinics and organized road trips which give women the opportunity to ride in new places and network with women in other states.
In the future, I hope to expand into helping get and keep kids in our community active. I want to help build their strength and confidence as individuals, and to eventually connect the young women of our community with female role models.
Any advice you would give to students interested in your current line of work?
There is so much more to nursing than you can imagine! When I was in nursing school, I didn’t think that anything else existed outside of hospital-based nursing. The reality is, there are many kinds of nursing. Its challenging, tough, exciting, fun and fulfilling, no matter what kind of nurse you become. I wouldn’t trade my years as an Army nurse for anything. If the military has crossed your mind, I say go for it! You will get exposure to things most will not. You will have amazing leadership opportunities, and you will get the chance to see the world in a completely different way.