Grad Q&A with Clinical Medical Assisting graduate Monique Garcia-Villa
At thirty years old Monique Garcia-Villa was ready to put her cosmetologist’s make-up brushes and eyelash extensions away to follow her recent thoughts of a career in the medical community. SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting (CMA) program on the Rancho Mirage campus suddenly caught more serious interest. No more freelance wedding parties, proms and travel to events and girls waiting for their turn in her makeover chair. And no more back pain for her to take home.
It was time to answer that little voice that pushed her toward something that would give her a stronger sense of pride and accomplishment. Monique had watched her mom, Cynthia, who had worked as a Nurse’s Aide, and grandmother, Lucille, who was a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), all her life. She admired how they took care of their patients and the personal gratification they felt from serving others. Could that be the right path for her, too?
Why change careers now?
When you’re younger you love playing in make-up and making people feel beautiful but watching my mom and hearing my grandmother’s stories all those years…something came over me and I wanted to do something more meaningful, more personal. And I’m the kind of person who will give the shirt off my back if someone needed it. Plus, I had kids, a growing family and I wanted to have a set career for retirement.
My grandmother was a retired Hospice nurse before she passed of Covid that turned into pneumonia while she was in the hospital this January. She would have been 89 (years old) in July and had worked as a LVN for over 40-years.
Did SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting program fit your needs?
I did some research, and I came across SJVC online. I also had a family member who went there (CMA program), and she explained the process, how SJVC works, and the instructors and Career Services people. Everybody was very helpful to her.
What were your greatest struggles balancing student, wife, and mother roles?
I was pregnant then and had three kids at home and felt like I wanted to be there with my kids (now age 1, 7, 11 and 15 years old). But I kept telling myself, ‘This is only (as few as) 9-months, then you’re going to be done and working’. My husband, Eric, was very supportive too and my mom was very encouraging and supportive of me entering the medical field. When I started class, she took care of the kids a lot and started dinner most of the time so I could have more time for homework and get some rest.
But, I was not very computer savvy and when we got into Comp 101, it was challenging for me. But the instructors were right there checking on me and making sure I fully understood what we were doing.
I just want people to know that if they have any of these women for instructors, they are in great hands: Miss Deborah, Miss Michelle, and Miss Cheyenne. They are behind you 100%. Their words of encouragement make everything so much better. I never had those kinds of teachers looking out for me in high school, except one who always pushed me to do better.
Did you find the support you needed at home too?
My husband was very proud of me and would tell me, ‘You’re 8-months pregnant and that’s not even stopping you’. You just have to put your mind out there that you’re going to complete it. And, my mom would tell me, ‘Whatever you put your mind to, as long as your heart is in it, you will succeed.’
There is a recent video of my grandmother where she says, ‘I want to give back, I want to help, I want to keep going’; and she just kept pushing forward. That motivates me to keep going, too. Nothing comes easy in life; you have to work for it.
What was it like being an ‘older’ student in your class?
There were a lot of younger students who, when it came to injections/venipunctures, were scared and a little shaky. I was able to help them and would tell them, ‘You can practice on my arm’. But if somebody wasn’t getting it right away, no one was ‘judgey’. They were all very helpful.
What was your favorite moment in the program?
Passing my National Certification Test! It was 133 questions, timed. And I took every last second. All the struggle was worth it in the end when I passed. Our school does have a high passing rate.
Was this a good career fit after all?
I feel like I found a piece of myself that was missing. I just felt like, ‘this is what I want to do with my career’. I’m really glad I made the choice to get into this field. My mind was doing critical thinking every day, taking notes.
And, I would say to others, ‘If you love to help people, give back, and you have that heart…. go for it.’ In this field, if you’re not there for the caring part of looking after someone’s loved ones, then you’re definitely not in the right field. These people (patients) are coming to you with their health or putting family members in your care and depending on you to take care of them. They are trusting you with that.
God put me in the medical field for a reason: He had bigger plans for me. I know it was to help others.
(Footnote: Monique lost her first CMA job when all her children caught Covid, and she had to take several days off to provide their care prior to completion of her new employee 90-day probation period. She hopes to go back to work soon with the help of SJVC’s Career Services Department.)
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