Grad Q&A with Clinical Medical Assisting graduate Leticia Lopez
In her late twenties, Leticia Lopez was ready to make a move from the kinds of jobs she had always worked. She was determined to do something completely different from the retail and school district’s cashier and cafeteria server positions she had held.
Letty’s fiancé, Steven, was very supportive and encouraged her to go back to school and to consider a medical career. The Covid pandemic had increased the need for well-trained medical professionals, and he recognized a natural empathy Letty had for others. And, if she ever needed support in her studies, several of her aunts are nurses and would be happy to give her additional encouragement or professional advice. The career direction and the timing felt right.
Why make a big career change now?
Steven knew I was ready for a change in the work I was doing, so when the pandemic came and everything was so in-demand in the medical field, we decided this was my opportunity. Besides, most of the classes would be online, so I could be home to study and be with my kids. (Leticia and Steve have Steven (10), Moseya (11) and Audrena (6).)
How did you choose SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting program?
I live down the street from the Porterville campus, so it was convenient. When I toured the campus, I saw they’re more hands-on, and I learn faster that way. SJVC teaches you way more than I expected.
And it was really easy to enroll. I started class maybe two weeks later.
How were you able to balance homelife and school life?
I had class at night (5:30-10:00 PM, Mon-Thrs.), so I took care of the kids during the day. We were all doing distance learning at the time, so that made it easier. I would do my homework during the day when they were doing their homework. Then, Steven would come home and take care of them.
I hadn’t been in school in 10-years and in the beginning I didn’t know how to manage my time. It was getting frustrating. There were times I was up until 1:00 or 2:00 o’clock in the morning and Steven would do his best to help me. He would tell me, ‘Don’t give up; our kids are watching you’.
Once I knew how to manage my homework, it got easier.
You had a major setback that threatened to derail all your hard work, what happened?
Our whole family, except my dad, got Covid. We had to quarantine, and I had to take a LOA (Leave of Absence) from school, but I still did my homework. My daughter had it pretty bad because she has asthma. Steven had to go to the hospital overnight because he had pneumonia and they had him on breathing support. My son said his stomach hurt, and that was it. I still can’t smell or taste very well. All our family is fine now.
Do you have a memorable moment during your Clinical Medical Assisting program?
Just coming back from Covid and passing tests and getting good grades. I didn’t think I would even pass that module (while recovering at home), but I got caught up and passed two classes – one with an A and one with a B. That was probably my proudest moment, and it made me know that there was no way I would quit. Nothing was going to stop me now from reaching my goal.
What did you enjoy most in the Clinical Medical Assisting program?
When we started our hands-on in the lab. We were doing injections, taking vitals, and getting the feel for what’s going to happen on the outside. It was cool!
I like to learn new stuff like injections – where they go and how much to give to patients. With the EKG you get to know what each wire means and what it does. My dad gets that done because of his pacemaker, and now I know what all that means. I could do that to him now!
But drawing blood; I was pretty nervous. I don’t want to hurt anyone. But you get all those nerves out and it becomes easy for you. The more you do, the easier it gets. Before, I never liked needles or blood. Now, if I’m a little nervous I just say, ‘I got this; I got this’.
How did the instructors at SJVC give you the support you needed?
The teachers are so good. If you didn’t get something they’d say, ‘It’s ok; this is why we’re here. We’re here to help you.’
If we weren’t getting something, they always made sure we did get it. That way we wouldn’t fall behind. If I had to stay after class so I would know how to do something, they were there. They were so helpful with everything.
Where did you start your new career as a Medical Assistant?
In September I went to work for Lux Dermatology where we work a lot with skin cancer patients. If they had surgery done, we remove stitches, check their wounds, or review their medications. We do a lot of medical intakes when patients come in because they have a bump or spot and don’t know what it is. We treat a lot of acne patients, as well.
Our office is busy all the time and we might see 40-50 patients each day. You’re always hands-on with everything, learning something new, doing something different every day. There’s never a dull moment.
Is your new career as a Medical Assistant what you hoped it might be?
I don’t like to be bored. I love to be busy and we’re always busy.
It’s so gratifying to see patients and see their treatments are working. Their self-confidence changes so much from the first time they came into the office. Seeing their faces light up after they had been a little depressed; it’s a great feeling to see how excited they get.
And the little things they say, like I’m doing a good job or that I’m a help to them; those little comments make my job easier.
Where do you see your future ambitions taking you?
Before I even graduated from SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting program I was already asking questions. ‘Who do I need to talk to take my career further?’ I want to enjoy this for a little bit, then I want to further it, to become a Registered Nurse (RN).
I didn’t realize how natural this (medical career) would be, until I did this. And, I thought, you know…. I shouldn’t have waited this long. I should have done this a lot sooner!
Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.