Stephanie Bagwell’s professional career has not necessarily followed what some would call a traditional trajectory.
In fact, a closer look at her résumé mirrors a theme that has played out repeatedly over the course of her personal life — putting the needs of others first.
A lifetime resident of Pickens County, South Carolina, Bagwell married her childhood sweetheart when she was just 17 years old. Her boyfriend at the time, Andy, was enlisting in the United States Army and she couldn’t fathom the thought of being without him.
The couple celebrated their 30th anniversary this past August.
When it came time for children, Bagwell opted to stay at home and raise two daughters and a son before enrolling in nursing school much later in life. Her first job in the healthcare industry was at a 44-bed nursing home. She joined the Redfern Health Center staff as a part-time nurse in 2010 while continuing to work long weekend hours as supervisor at the nursing home.
“I wanted to be involved in my family’s life, but also wanted to be a nurse,” Bagwell said. “This was a wonderful opportunity.”
Bagwell ultimately rose to the position of nursing supervisor with Student Health Services before an opportunity too good to pass up presented itself — one that firmly prioritized her own career.
In 2018, Bagwell enrolled in Clemson University’s nursing master’s program. Through the help of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), she began pursuing her goal of becoming a licensed nurse practitioner.
A year later, Clemson announced a $2.7 million grant had been awarded to the School of Nursing to expand the nurse practitioner workforce in Upstate South Carolina. The grant funded educational opportunities for students as part of the Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW).
Bagwell was one of 13 students accepted into the inaugural cohort. She described the curriculum as “laborious,” one which included several clinical rotations in nearby rural health settings such as Piedmont, Walhalla and West Union. She worked five days a week at Redfern while completing clinical requirements on weekends.
Bagwell earned her master’s degree in May 2021, the culmination of a challenging, yet rewarding chapter in her professional development.
“I was able to obtain a master’s degree with no financial burden on my family — and Clemson University made that happen,” she said. “A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into it. But because it was such a great experience, I am continuing my education.”
After obtaining licensure this summer, Bagwell transitioned from nursing supervisor to one of four nurse practitioners on the Redfern medical staff in August. Additionally, she began classes in pursuit of a doctorate in nursing practice — continuing her non-traditional trajectory.
Bagwell enjoys many aspects of working with Student Health Services, primarily the opportunity to work with a younger population.
“These are young adults,” she said. “As healthcare professionals, we can intervene before bad habits are established. I enjoy the health promotion aspect our center has to offer. It’s a lot more fulfilling than always chasing a cure or treatment.”
She also cited staff continuity and integration of services as major selling points for continuing her medical career at Redfern.
“I’ve never worked in an area where the people get along so well. We all have the same goal, which is to take care of Clemson students.”
It’s a perfect fit for someone like Bagwell, who has been putting the needs of others first for decades — even if it hasn’t been a “traditional” approach.