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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Grad Q&A with Clinical Medical Assisting Graduate Ashleigh Stidham

October 18, 2021

SJVC Medical Assisting grad Ashleigh StidhamSJVC students are well prepared to launch their eventual job search as they near completion of their Business, Medical and Technical programs. Career Services Advisors work with each of them on resume/portfolio/video presentations, job search and interview competencies, as well as networking tactics. When Ashleigh Stidham neared the end of her Clinical Medical Assisting program externship (on-the-job training with participating health care providers/facilities) she never had to exercise those practiced job search tools.

“I told my manager at Urology Associates of Central California (extern site) that I had really enjoyed my time there and had learned a lot,” says Ashleigh. “She said she really wanted me to come to work there and would talk with Human Resources about a full-time job. The day before my last day (of externship) I was filling out paperwork to start my next shift as an employee!”

Boom! One and done.


How did you make such a strong impression on supervisors at your extern site?

They knew I was a hard-worker and would take multiple patient notes for each medical provider – 8 physicians and 4 nurse practitioners. I was taking it very seriously. And they knew I loved my job. You get attached to everybody, so we were all kind of ‘yay!’.


Your post-high school education was kind of all over the place, right?

I started with 17-units of General Ed, going for Criminology at a community college, plus some summer school classes at a city college, then online classes in Madera, Fresno, Reedley – whatever their schools offered. I was almost twenty when I had my baby (Hunter).


What made SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting program at the Madera campus a good fit for you?

My big concern was that I had to work full-time and go to school at night. That the Clinical Medical Assisting program was offered during the evening was a big deal and made it possible for me.

I was almost like a professional student (so many previous courses) so I know when I first sit down if everybody is welcoming. Some students were a lot younger, and some were my age with families, and all had different backgrounds. You see the same people every night; it’s kind of familiar and comforting, like one big family. We motivated and helped each other because we wanted each other to succeed.


Where did you find the support you needed to work full-time and go to school?

I waited until my second son, Luis, was 6-months old before I went back to school. He was a preemie and was in NICU for a month and a half. That experience made me want to take care of babies. Plus, I always had a thing for helping people.

My ex-husband, Luis’s parents, Lily and Fernando, would watch Luis during the day, then Luis would pick up the baby and feed and bathe him while I was in school. It was a crazy 9-months, but it worked. The grandparents did an amazing job, and I was picky and wouldn’t just leave him with anyone.

In class we formed our own little study group, and our teacher would keep going over something until we understood it. They would draw it out for you until you get it. Everybody learns a different way, at a different pace. But you’re paying to learn something, so I wasn’t shy at all about asking for help. I knew that when you go out in the field, you have to be knowledgeable and know what you’re doing.


SJVC student removing sutures from a pigWhat was the hardest part of the Clinical Medical Assisting program for you?

I knew that venipuncture (blood draw) was, honestly, what was going to make me or break me. I hate needles, can’t stand them and can’t even look at them. But, once I did my first blood draw, I got an adrenaline rush and I wanted to draw everyone’s blood. I loved it!

I had to get 10 successful – clean – blood draws. That means no blood at the surface of the needle. If you go in too slow, there will be a little dot of blood. You want to insert the needle fast enough in the vein that blood does not come to the surface. I have good veins so I was the guinea pig for our class. I could watch getting my blood drawn and it didn’t bother me at all.


Were there any big surprises in your hands-on training in the CMA program lab?

The only thing I didn’t expect was to practice on a pig. We practiced stitches – sutures – on different external and internal parts of a dead pig. I got to see what bacon looks like from the inside. I did the cheek of the pig to practice stitching and removing the sutures – staples, as well.

I was surprised that it was not all about schoolwork. For Halloween we had a costume contest and I dressed up as Cruella de Ville and some of the girls dressed as Dalmatians. I actually won that one!


SJVC Medical Assisting grad Ashleigh StidhamDid you feel well-prepared to enter the work world?

I really enjoyed Career Services (student/graduate job search support). You had to look up a resume in the medical field you wanted to apply for and highlight the things (skills/qualifications) in that resume that you learned here (SJVC). We had to do a professional video and voicemail and a slide show using pictures of when we did things like venipuncture or CPR. And we put together a professional folder. We were graded on all that information. I ended up winning all of those (challenges). The chant in our classroom was, ‘You have to beat Ashleigh!’


What is a typical workday like for you?

I am the go-to for scribing, which is writing down everything that goes on in the doctor/patient visit. I write down what the doctor says, the patient’s treatment plan, and follow-up appointments. I am the Medical Scribe ‘floater’ for several providers (medical service). It depends on the day and responsibilities might include getting patient vitals, getting sterile trays ready, bladder scan, checking urine, prepping patients and assisting doctors with procedures.

My supervisor comes to me for everything and I’m basically the go-to for anywhere she needs me. I recently got promoted to Prime Medical Assistant for a nurse practitioner.

I keep doing things they didn’t expect me to be doing. I don’t wait for someone to tell me to do something. I kind of observe what is needed, then take the initiative.


SJVC Medical Assisting grad Ashleigh StidhamWhat inspired you to sacrifice so much for the education that got you to this career spot?

I grew up in foster care, so I wanted to say that I actually graduated college – and I did that.

My parents did drugs, my mom was on welfare, and it wasn’t really a good life with them. I used sports and school to stay away from home. I worked really hard to have whatever I have.

I want my kids to have a better life than I had, and I want them to know that to be successful and have what you want, you have to work really hard for it and never give up. Their dad and I aren’t together now, but as long as parents are there for your child, they should turn out OK.


What is your best advice for those who are fearful of going back to school for a new career?

When I was going to school a lot of girls would be, ‘Oh, I’m tired’. I would say, ‘I don’t want to hear it! If I can manage a store full-time, be a mom and come to school, you can do it too.’ At the end of the day, you just have to want it. If you are thinking negative, you will fail.

I kind of created my own vision of what I wanted. When things were hard, I learned not to bury it. I learned from it, overcame it and just moved forward. You can’t go back in time, just go forward and make the best of your future.

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