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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

An in-demand Medical Assistant position requires a deeper education commitment

October 19, 2020

An in-demand Medical Assistant position requires a deeper education commitment“It’s really hard to get someone to hire you without any experience, but hard to get any experience when you’re new at a skill,” says Nancy Cano, who in her early forties earned Phlebotomy certification in a 3-week course.  She always knew she wanted to work in health care where she could provide excellent care for others, and now she realized she had to take her education higher to get to that level of skill.

Her dream job in the medical field was just out of reach, but she would not let it go. “Seeing people throughout my life get hurt or sick made me think I needed to be able to do something to help,” says Nancy. “I know it sounds corny but whether it’s family, friends or a homeless person on the street, I just don’t like to see people suffer. I always try to help.”

San Joaquin Valley College’s Modesto campus was the first career training resource she checked out. A family member had enrolled in the Medical Assisting program the previous year and had a good experience. Once Nancy completed SJVC’s online survey, things happened very quickly. A new class was about to start, and Nancy decided she would be one of those new Clinical Medical Assisting program students.

“I did the orientation and in less than a week I was sitting in class,” she says. “I was scared and excited.”

There were so many reasons not to be there. Nancy and her husband, Adrian, had four of their six children still living at home. Although the youngest were teenagers, it would still take a lot of cooperation to make everything work.

“We were each other’s motivation,” Nancy remembers. “Adrian is my best friend and without him it wouldn’t have been possible. “Every time I was worried about a test, he would tell me, ‘I have faith in you; you’ve got this.’”

“The kids did their chores and took care of themselves, to an extent,” says Nancy. “I would do my homework before they got home from school and would study for tests at night.” She wanted them to see her effort, her discipline. “I kind of wanted to be an inspiration to them. I wanted them to see that even at this age – and I believe I was even older than the teachers – you can do it. And they told me they were proud of me.”

Her commitment paid off as Nancy maintained a high GPA (Grade Point Average) and was frequently on the Dean’s List. “I wish I’d done that in high school,” she says. “My head was on straight this time because this was my future.”

Everything Nancy was learning excited her. “It was a lot to learn, but I have good memory skills. Just knowing all the angles for an EKG – placing them correctly is fine but understanding the way your heartbeats print out a graph and being able to read the results – that one was hard.”

Nothing intimidated her. “I was looking forward to every part and was not revolted by anything,” says Nancy. “It’s all part of the medical field and you can’t be disgusted by anything because that’s what you’re going to do.”

She has an example ready to prove her point. “We had to do the feces test on ourselves. You have to somehow get a specimen of your feces – even a little speck – that couldn’t touch any other part of your body or it would be contaminated. You could do it at home or at school, process it and show the instructor. It was a requirement to get credit to pass the class. Checked off that part of the curriculum!”

Nancy has always been a very practical person. “My parents never really sat me down and talked about life. I just knew you have to work hard for what you want.” She wanted her own money and as a young teen got a work permit to work weekends at the flea market. “I bought things for myself that teenagers like.” Once she graduated from high school, Nancy spent the next 25-years in retail and customer service, as she grew her own family.

Now she was on a new career trajectory and there was no way she would fail. Nancy never missed a class and even took the time to counsel her younger classmates.

“When it came to school, we all helped each other,” she confides. “We would eat lunch together, we would talk and regardless of age, it was wonderful.” Some classmates came to Nancy for personal advice. Did they listen to this older, wiser woman? “Probably not,” she laughs. “I love my mom, but I didn’t listen to her either.” Youth often miss some of the best shared lessons right in front of them.

“The most education my mom ever had was up to the second grade in Mexico,” says Nancy. “Everything she learned was on her own. She communicated with people in a way that had them understanding her without having to speak English. She was everything to me and still is. Dad was kind of strict and just always told me that school came first.”

Nancy brought their guidance to school with her every day. She used their struggles, experiences and successes to build her own.

Before Nancy completed her Clinical Medical Assisting program last March, she began preparing for her job search with the support of campus Career Services Advisor, Chauncy Fifer. She learned how to prepare her resume, sharpened her interview skills and practiced job search strategies. She was ready.

“The day that I completed the course (CMA) was my favorite moment because finally, for once in my life, I finished something that was so important to me.” And, her job search skills had paid off.

“Nancy was one of my best students right from the start,” says Chauncy. “She was offered two positions that were paid externs, and ultimately decided to choose a site close to her home.”

Nancy now works for the medical group of Doctors Patel, Pulliam and Hubli where she has responsibilities for both their front and back offices. “I take patient medical histories, vitals, urinalysis, drug and alcohol testing, TB testing, give immunizations and so many other procedures for doctors who have been in practice for over 30-years,” she says. “I honestly love it because it’s not fixated; there’s always something different.”

Most important to Nancy is how she makes every patient feel. “I like it when patients notice what I’m feeling and tell me they like my attitude and how I treat our patients. They tell me it’s refreshing to see somebody enjoy what they do. That means more to me than anything.”

Nancy can see herself in that kind of role indefinitely. “I’ve never been the type of person to think too much into the future because I prefer to live in the ‘now’. I prefer to focus on what I’m doing instead of what I could be doing. I know that I want to be good at what I have learned. I want to make a difference in my field, even if it’s a simple smile that I could put on a patient who is having a difficult day.”

Sometimes, simplicity is the most powerful way of sharing life.

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