Clinical Medical Assisting student hits the re-set button
Sometimes you have to go home again before you can start life over. That’s what Charlotte Theurich realized when, after years of managing everything life threw her way, she had to set the reins of control aside. She moved in with her parents for a year, then accepted an invitation from her sister Tina to live with her until Charlotte could get another firm grip on the direction of her life.
There was a lot to figure out. Charlotte’s husband Brad, the father to their three adult children, had died after a short illness. For the few months preceding his death, Charlotte had worked full-time while tending to his needs and administering his medications and oxygen lines in between doctors’ visits. Friends rotated in to prepare meals, but before long hospital medical staff suggested hospice involvement. “But I was in denial,” Charlotte admits.
Denial was short-lived. Charlotte said her goodbyes at his hospital bed the day Brad passed away. She entered the abyss of devastating loss.
Somehow in that numb state, Charlotte still had to find a way to go forward. All her life, she had been so capable, so willing to be in charge. She had worked since she was 15 in so many jobs it was hard to reconstruct her work history. She had been a secretary, waitress, and later in life, she spent several years managing tow truck companies where she handled repair orders, insurance claims, vehicle impound releases, job quotes and anything else that kept the operation running smoothly. She was always comfortable stepping into a new role, and job interviews didn’t scare her. “I’ve had many interviews in my lifetime; I was good at that.”
Charlotte spent a year at her parents’ home. She repeated a simple routine: Eat, sleep, work. In April 2018, she moved to her sister’s house in Hanford. “I was unemployed, but I helped clean my sister’s house, tended to our garden and tried to make sure dinner was on the table for her and her husband and son.”
As fate might have it, Charlotte saw a TV commercial for SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting (CMA) program that carried the message that it is never too late to start a new career. Charlotte used to be very good at starting new jobs. Could she still be?
“It was a ‘You’re never too old’ kind of thing, and I felt like the woman in the commercial was talking directly to me,” says Charlotte. She made the appointment to check it out on the Hanford campus.
“It felt good from the get-go,” she says. But then she realized there was an entrance exam. “It was a timed test, basic math and all this stuff you haven’t done since you were in high school. I thought, ‘OMG, I will totally fail.’ I didn’t get to finish the test…. but I still passed with high scores!” She enrolled for the next Clinical Medical Assisting program start date.
“Sitting in class for the first time was a little nerve-wracking, but the teachers were awesome, and the Dean was super helpful, too. And, as long as I’m doing something I love to do, I was willing to make the adjustments.”
She struggled a little bit with computers. “I’m used to putting things on paper and turning them in. And I had no idea what PowerPoint was.” The medical side was a little intimidating, as well. “My first mod was Venipuncture, so it was ‘OK, we’re going to poke each other with a needle? I’ve never done this before, but let’s go!’”
Charlotte adjusted much better than she imagined. “I got straight As, got on the Dean’s List and attended ASB (Associate Student Body). “I liked being known as the smarty pants and just having the other kids come up to me asking how I was able to do certain assignments.”
She had come a long way from her first-day jitters. “I was the oldest for a while; they (students) were like 19 or in their twenties, thirties. Then another one started that was close to my age and we were both kicking butt. But that didn’t matter because we all just became peers.”
As someone approaching 50, Charlotte had a lot of life experience and the wisdom it entails that she brought to the classroom and classmate dynamics. “When you’re older, you don’t sweat the small stuff that you do when you’re younger. You don’t have all the drama and just handle things differently. You focus on what’s important.”
Charlotte has a lot of empathy for her young classmates who have early life and family struggles. “Some of them are recently divorced, have kids and are trying to do everything.” They often come to her for answers – sometimes the kinds needed for homework assignments. “I will help as long as you’re helping yourself. I won’t give them the answers but will work along side them to help them help themselves. It’s tough love.”
Every student in class has made a big decision to be there, and sometimes those decisions come hard.
“Nobody likes change, but even though it’s scary, here I am doing it,” says Charlotte. It is difficult for her to look back and resist the feelings of regret for not going back to school sooner.
“Looking back at my younger self, I could have made it work, but I was young and dumb,” she says. “Then you have something major happen in life and it changes your perspective. Or you gain life experience and have greater value for things…like education. I could have prioritized when I was younger; I could have made it work.”
It may have taken her a little longer to get to this place. But here she is, a recent graduate of her Clinical Medical Assisting program and about to start the first professional position of her chosen field.
She saw her future stretch out before her during her externship, where she got her first taste of a career in the medical community. “My boss said, ‘I can see you’re going to do big things in life and forget about my staff; and I know you’re going to go far,’” she remembers. He easily saw what she was beginning to envision.
“Right now, I’m going to dip my toes in the water and will ride this out,” she says. “But I’m already thinking about retirement. Maybe I will go back to school to become a teacher, and then I’ll be that old lady teaching a bunch of 20-year-olds – again – and they’ll be saying, ‘What, you’re 65!?’”
If Charlotte ever really had any doubts about what she could do…. she has left them far behind.
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