LTJG Lauren Brewer, RN
Bureau of Prisons, Fort Dix, NJ
While 50% of my nursing class did not have a job at graduation, I had a job in place from day one of my senior year in college. This was made possible by the SRCOSTEP experience. The premise is that you are getting paid, accumulating benefits and time toward your retirement all for going to school and promising to work double the time you were in school. Your promise is owed to one of many agencies that the Public Health Service (PHS) helps to staff while not deployed to national disasters or humanitarian missions.
The agency that requested my SRCOSTEP contract was the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). At first I wasn’t sure if this was where I wanted to work; not many people grow up saying, “I want to be a prison nurse.” But I sat down and did some soul searching. Prisoners are a population of people with unique needs that I can help meet. Public health isn’t always about doing what we like but what needs to get done and done well. So with purpose and burgeoning excitement I accepted this call as a PHS Commissioned Corp Officer.
While I knew the agency I intended to work for, I did not know where in the country I would be serving. I was asked to make a list of the top five available BOP institutions and in fact, ended up calling over 20 potential bosses and future coworkers. It is quite cool to be interviewing for your perfect fit versus being interviewed!
I was stationed at my second choice location, Fort Dix, NJ. One of the main reasons I chose this location was because of the boss that awaited me here. He was a fellow PHS officer who took me under his wing helping me develop not only clinically but pushing me professionally and personally as well. He helped me to lay a solid foundation of what I hope to be a progressive PHS career track.
One year later, as I write this, I am so glad I did not let my own initial reservations hold me back from this opportunity. PHS is where I’m supposed to be and I can’t wait to see everywhere it takes me!
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LTJG Katherine Bickel
Indian Health Service, Kayenta Health Center
As a Grad student, one of the many challenges is trying to survive monetarily. This certainly was the case for me—as a student at Yale University I was struggling to keep on top of classes, bills, thesis work and trying to find a job. Being a part of the SRCOSTEP program can at least cross off a couple of those items on the Grad student’s extended list.
Being sponsored by a federal organization (Indian Health Service, Food and Drug Administration, Bureau of Prisons, etc.) affords the opportunity to really focus in on your studies in your last year, in addition to avoiding the end of year scramble to find employment. My schooling meant so much more being able to envision the place I would be starting my career as a nurse practitioner, Kayenta Health Center on the Navajo Nation, and the people I would be serving. Being in SRCOSTEP also helped with recruiting other officers—my colleagues were so interested in the program and I was able to guide another student who was also eventually chosen for the SRCOSTEP program.
I am so thankful for the opportunity I was given through the SRCOSTEP program. The SRCOSTEP program is a great choice for those prospective officers who know they are ready to serve their country’s public health needs.
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LT Lynde Monson
I committed to the U.S. Public Health Service’s SRCOSTEP program at the end of my third year of pharmacy school. What a great program! Long before many of my classmates had even started applying for jobs, I already knew that I would be starting a challenging and exciting career with Indian Health Service upon graduation. This allowed me to put my full focus on getting the best experience possible out of my pharmacy rotations without having to worry about job hunting.
Not only did I have peace of mind about employment, but the benefits to being a commissioned officer were excellent. After years of being in school, it was such a relief to be drawing a salary – especially during rotations when it is hard to fit in time for work. The income also allowed me to consider a more varied range of rotation options further from home. In addition to the income advantage, the health insurance benefits were very good. I also was accruing vacation time while fulfilling my degree requirements, so when I began service at my duty station after graduation, I already had leave available to use unlike most people starting a new job. Finally, my time as a SRCOSTEP counts toward retirement!
And, as if all of this were not enough to make me happy about my decision to complete a SRCOSTEP, I had access to other USPHS officers, such as my area liaison, who were extremely helpful in my transition from a student officer to a pharmacist in a diverse practice in an underserved area. There was also a conference call with other SRCOSTEP’s, where we had the opportunity to gather even more information useful to our unique career path.
After almost a year as a practicing pharmacist, I would have to say that completing a SRCOSTEP was a great decision for me. I’m serving where I hoped to with a great group of people, I play an active role in patient care, and I have ongoing options for additional training to both expand my practice and better serve the community members.
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