U.S. Army Veteran Richard likes to stay busy. He started his career as a volunteer firefighter, having graduated from high school as a state-certified firefighter and EMT. While looking for a department to join full-time, he did odd jobs to supplement his income. After only being able to find part-time work, he chose to join the Army as a Health Care Specialist, using his training to provide triage and immediate care to combat injured soldiers under fire in Afghanistan. He also schooled student soldiers in combat casualty care.
While on duty in Afghanistan with an infantry unit, he was very severely injured by an IED blast and spent several years rebuilding his health and mobility.
Since he already had experience in the medical field, he decided to go back to nursing, eventually obtaining his LVN license and finding work as Assistant Director of Nursing for a Skilled Nursing Facility.
But then he had a vehicle accident that caused a spinal cord injury. While doing rehab in Washington State, he came into contact with PVA representatives and joined the organization. He became more involved with PVA programs when he moved to Texas, volunteering as a hospital liaison, helping out the national service officer, and eventually moving into the role of Satellite Director for the Texas Chapter.
During this time, Richard remained very active in sporting events through the chapter, and began a friendship with Joel Hoots, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor with PVA’s Veterans Career Program. The two would often meet at events and talk about the possibility of Richard returning to work, although for a few years Richard was content with his volunteer positions.
After the Covid pandemic hit, Richard’s volunteer work became stagnant as the nation coped with the virus. A little over a year later, PVA reached out to Richard and asked him to help out on the Field Advisory Committee as they conducted SCI/D center site visits. Soon, he became aware that PVA was seeking a new Associate Director of Medical Services, which seemed like a perfect fit for Richard’s skillset. He reached out to Joel for help with his application.
Joel helped Richard update his resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile so he was ready to apply. “We focused on what he had been doing the last four years because it was mostly volunteering with PVA in various roles which, little did he know, was preparing him for his next paid role with PVA,” recalls Joel. “We discussed interview questions and how he was a great fit for this job.”
“When this position opened up, it was kind of a perfect opportunity for me because not only do I get to advocate for Veterans, which I’ve been doing anyway as a volunteer in a lot of different programs, but it also allows me to put my nursing license back to use,” said Richard. “Spinal cord care is something that I’m very passionate about. I have a unique perspective because I’ve been a patient in spinal cord units, and I’m in a wheelchair.”
Richard was soon hired as PVA’s Associate Director of Medical Services, and his new position will allow him to work remotely from his home in Bastrop, Texas, where he also enjoys the outdoors, does Crossfit, and plays Wheelchair Rugby. He is grateful to Joel and the Veterans Career Program for helping prepare him for success.
“I had never really had to put together a resume before. Joel gave me pointers toward the interview and helped me with everything. That way once I put the application in, I knew what to expect,” says Richard.
Richard is happy to have a found a job at PVA that accommodates his disability and utilizes his career background. “It allows me to put all of my experiences from the past into a position where I can finally go back to work. There’s a lot of things that go along with being a quadriplegic that can make it difficult to find employment somewhere, especially as a nurse. This organization understands that. It’s a really good environment for me to be able to work in.”