Grad Q&A with Clinical Medical Assisting graduate Tony Murguia
Tony Murguia had not completed enough high school credits to earn his diploma, and at 18-years old he was working in a facility as a care provider for those with mental and physical disabilities. Over the next several years he also worked for a water company delivering jugs of water to businesses and then for a ‘temp’ agency where he held a variety of positions for long stream of companies.
But he never lost a desire to be a part of the medical field where he could help others in their physical health and struggles. Tony knew that he would have to get his GED before that had any possibility of becoming a reality. When he reached his mid-twenties, he enrolled in adult school and finally earned his high school diploma. Now what?
How did you decide on a course of action to change your work situation?
I was living paycheck-to-paycheck, not making very much money. I was tired of not hearing back from places where I applied for a job. A good friend was in the same situation and one day he said, “Why don’t we look into going to school.”
I wanted to work in the medical field, but I couldn’t stop work and go to school full-time. Four-year colleges had a lot of pre-reqs just to get in. Going to school, going to work and having a family; I didn’t have the time.
We did our research on SJVC and saw their Visalia campus had Respiratory Therapy, Registered Nursing, Clinical Medical Assisting and a Dental Hygiene program (Visalia campus). Plus, I had two sisters who graduated from SJVC years ago and had accomplished great things.
I decided on the Clinical Medical Assisting program. In my heart, I felt that it was where I needed to be and what I needed to do to put my compassion and love for people out there.
You started the Clinical Medical Assisting program on the Porterville campus just a few days later. Was it the right decision?
The first two months were really tough, and we (family: husband, Josh, and kids Camron-15, Sara-13, Emily-9 and Lilly-7) had to cut back on things. Trying to work a full-time job, going to school and with a family to care for was too much. I was just so exhausted and was not doing very well in school. I ended up quitting my job so that I could focus solely on school.
Josh told me I should just focus on school because this was our future. He made the budget stretch and as a mechanic, he picked up side jobs and worked as a DJ for weddings for us to be able to have a little bit of normalcy. He found a way to make it work for us.
It sounds as though you had serious struggles?
I have dyslexia (learning disability), so I have to see something for it to sink in. A lot of it was the medical terminology – and anatomy was really hard for me. I made flash cards – they were my secret to study success.
And it was hard on the kids for me to go to school. I started off with night classes when I was still working. But when I stopped working, I changed to morning classes, which gave me nights to be with my kids.
What inspired you to keep going?
It was definitely my kids. Doing this means I can have a good job so that I could give them what I didn’t have growing up. We were a family of six siblings, so we had to share a lot of things growing up. But my stepmom (Nina) made sure we had enough to eat.
But, if it wasn’t for Josh, I probably would have given up.
Who was there to help you when the pressure got to be too much?
Miss C (Laura Cervantez, CMA faculty) pushed me in a way that gave me so much confidence that I could do this. Night or day, when I wasn’t getting something, she would help me understand. I told her it was very hard for me to read and write, and she told me, ‘No, I’m not going to let you use that.’ And, I needed that. In the end, I got the second-highest score in our class for the NCCT (National Center for Competency Testing) that we need to become a Certified Medical Assistant.
What advice would you give to other students who might be struggling to stay in school?
You have to believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who encourage you. Push through all the tough things that you might come across. No matter what, you will overcome it and the outcome will be great.
What did you enjoy most about the Clinical Medical Assisting program?
It was really fun to do projects with my classmates. One project was making something to show the circulatory system (human body). I got some clear tubes from the Dollar Store, someone else bought boards we could tape these tubes to, others brought bottles and dye we would use to show ‘blood’ flowing through the body. It was cool throwing our ideas in, getting input and making it into something. It (project) even got displayed in the library.
Was there anything you did not expect in your Clinical Medical Assisting program?
I was not expecting to be President of the Student Body Council! I was voted in and I took my responsibilities very seriously. I did my best at organizing lunches and fundraising events. I got to go out in the community and talk about SJVC. I got to go to high schools, festivals, and farmers markets on behalf of the college. It taught me a lot about getting volunteers to come with me.
Some (as a result) came to SJVC straight out of high school. At one point we had so many sign up, we were having to split the class into an ancillary classroom.
You completed your CMA program about 18-months ago. How do you like your new career?
I love when I get compliments from our patients. They say, ‘Oh, I wish all my ‘nurses’ could be like you, so kind, so caring.’ I tell them that I’m here for them and I’m doing my best. One patient brought in a chocolate mousse pie for me and told me I’d helped her a lot and she wanted to show her appreciation.
I’m responsible for getting patients’ vital signs, weight and height, and also provide injections and blood draws. I do front and back-office scheduling for procedures.
Where will you go from here?
In the future I see myself moving up to a higher position and will continue going to school toward either a Respiratory Therapist or Registered Nurse.
We recently visited Josh’s sister and her family in Oregon, and they told us we should move there, too. I did a Zoom then in-person interview for a clinic that is going to start up a mobile unit. I got the job and will even help design the mobile unit.
This is what Miss C instilled in us (MA students). Knowing I can go anywhere in the U.S. and with this certification, I will be offered a position – and get paid more for that certification. I accomplished this and this new position in Oregon was the cherry on top.
Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.