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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Clinical Medical Assisting Instructor Describes the Support She Extends To Her Students

October 23, 2020

Clinical Medical Assisting Instructor Describes the Support She Extends To Her Students“There are a lot of things I do that are not on my job description,” laughs Sahiba Gill, Clinical Medical Assisting program faculty, describing the support she extends to her students. “I am their main source during their journey to this point.”

Sahiba has a broader assessment of her role in students’ education….and in their career success. “We are more than just an instructor who teaches, assigns homework and gives them their grade. There are times students come to me for advice, more training or with questions. They have such inquisitive minds, and they come with such interesting questions beyond what’s in the textbooks.”

She sees it as her responsibility to feed their curiosities about anything related to the medical field. The class may begin talking about an EKGs (electrocardiogram) and end up talking about mastectomies and how a patient having had one might require more sensitivity during that procedure.

“I talk with them about how a patient might feel on the table and how maintaining patient dignity is part of our code of ethics; Render service with full respect for the dignity of humanity,” says Sahiba. “If a patient is exposed, you want to have respectful eyes. Always maintain kindness and professionalism while we’re doing these procedures.”

Sahiba teaches the same level of professionalism and ethics to the Clinical Medical Assisting program on the Bakersfield campus. Patient respect and care are a priority at all levels of medical care.

The accelerated Medical CMA program covers both front and back office operations and responsibilities. There is a great deal of material to cover is a short time, so Sahiba is sensitive to students who might struggle with time management, academics or personal distractions. She knows the signs to watch for because she was in a similar position a few years earlier.

“I sat in the same seat when I started my journey at San Joaquin Valley College, right out of high school in 2006,” she remembers. Sahiba was newly married and her sister-in-law, Karen, was about to enroll in SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting program and urged her do the same. “Honestly, I was afraid and didn’t think I could do it, but she gave me encouragement.”

As was the culture and tradition of their East Indian family, all shared a home: her husband, his parents and grandparents, siblings and any of their children. Sahiba always had a study partner close by, and when Sahiba’s daughter, Muskaan, was born toward the end of the CMA program, she also had built-in child care.

As it turned out Sahiba’s fears of education failure were unwarranted. She did well academically and was offered a position at the 3-physician medical office where she did her on-the-job externship. She was just 19-years old and excited to find work in her chosen field so easily.

Over the next 11-years there were many changes in Sahiba’s life. Her son, Ishaan was born when her daughter was two years old, and a few years later she and the children started a new life together. “After my divorce it was my first time living on my own with my two kids and it was hard,” she remembers. “My job is what kept me above water. I was so glad I went to school and did it at the time I did. Who knows what life will throw at you?”

Work was a constant source of gratification. Sahiba performed her responsibilities so well that in a short period of time she became the Medical Assistant who was responsible for training all the new interns. “It was one of the interns I trained who encouraged me to apply for a teaching position at SJVC, where she had just graduated, says Sahiba. “Our office only hired SJVC graduates.”

The idea of teaching started to fit with her need to expand her career horizons. “That was my first job and I grew up there, but it felt like I had done everything I could do at this office and it felt like I needed to grow.”

Two years later Sahiba is exactly where she needs to be: in front of a Medical Assisting class, sharing a wealth of experience with those about to begin their own journey in the medical field.

Her classroom instruction also includes many life lessons she hopes will give her students guideposts for their own career paths. “I didn’t have a very good role model growing up,” says Sahiba. “People in my family mostly did odd jobs and many are still in India. A cousin was a flight attendant and I was in awe of her. She had the independence I craved.” Sahiba set her sights on education to get there. “I was the first in my immediate family to go to college.”

She counsels her students to find a positive voice in their lives, someone to encourage them or who might set an example for them. “You will have some really bad days and not be able to see your path clearly, so you need those people in your life to push you.”

Sahiba knows how much a positive voice can propel you forward. “It’s corny, but to just hear ‘You can do it!’. “I didn’t get here by myself. A lot of people in my life pushed me to be my best. My kids do, my boyfriend (Freddy) does; I have a strong foundation to rely on.”

It pains Sahiba to hear any of her students lose faith in themselves. “Sometimes a student can’t focus in class because their mind is on what’s going on at home.” Maybe it’s childcare or a boyfriend or insecurity about school. “We sit down and make plans A, B and C for childcare; evaluate scenarios and come up with solutions and people in the community who could help. You might be the only one in their life right now who is pushing them in the right direction.” Sahiba will always step forward to be that person.

Life is in a constant state of change. Sahiba knows that the problems holding students back today can be overcome but will show up in another form throughout life. She is helping students to develop the tools to handle challenges throughout life.

“I get satisfaction from students learning; now they’re opened up to more possibilities because they got to understand something they never knew before – which leads to new pathways,” she says. “I make it a point to tell them to learn something new every day. It can be something small or something very complex. It keeps them in a place of open-mindedness and expectation for growth.”

She balances that expansive concept with something easily understood. “Enjoy what is in front of you. If you are a Medical Assistant, enjoy it thoroughly. You don’t have to make a single decision last a lifetime. Change can produce growth – and that’s a good place to be.”

Those in need of a supportive voice can benefit from Sahiba’s most any time. It will echo its wisdom for years to come.

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