Grad Q&A with Medical Office Administration graduate Cheryl Bergantz
Cheryl Bergantz spent a few years in an off-and-on effort to earn her Bachelor’s degree at her local community college, but with just four classes left she chose another direction. “I was juggling being a mom (to Tyler and Ashley) and taking classes the few times they were even available, chipping away at it for 4-5 years,” she says. “I was pretty close, but just couldn’t do it any more with that college. I had to find something I could do and actually finish.”
What made the Medical Office Administration program a good fit for your life and career needs?
There were set days and hours, so I could have a schedule I could work with a lot easier than community college. I knew exactly what I was in for in terms of time commitment and studying. And I could build support around that solid routine.
I had two jobs at the time. I ran the childcare department in a health club and worked in a market from 2:00 to 10:00 PM where I did everything from making food, to cashier and stocking shelves. A dependable school schedule made it possible to balance it all.
What drew your interest to work in a medical services environment?
My mom, Ruth, had always been in the medical field, but I can’t do the patient stuff. I liked the office atmosphere, and the idea that the medical field was always going to be there stuck with me. I might not be working directly with patients, but there would always be a need for other (non-medical) support in a medical office.
There are other people out there helping patients, not just doctors and nurses. I wanted to help, not necessarily front-and-center. That other support is still essential in a medical facility too.
How did you find SJVC’s MOA program?
I saw a billboard! At the time I was still focused on a business course, but when I went to the campus (Atascadero) to check it out, I saw the MOA and gravitated toward that.
I had been doing business administration in community college, which had nothing to do with medical offices. Why should I take all this other stuff that I won’t use? I wanted an education that was geared toward a specific career outcome.
What made you hesitate to enroll in the Medical Office Administration program?
I had wasted my time getting financial aid with community college, so I would have to take out a student loan – and that just scared me to death. Otherwise, I would have signed on the dotted line as soon as I walked in there.. I was completely broke and struggling with two kids. But once I saw that these people (SJVC staff) do care, it was a lot easier to make that financial commitment.
I needed to have that clear career path, so I had to make a decision.
What were your struggles and where did you find support?
I had 50/50 custody with my kids’ dad, so they weren’t being shuttled off to just whomever. We lived quite a ways out of town so my kids couldn’t walk to school. I’d drop them off at my friend, Terry’s house Mon-Wed. at 6:30 AM where they’d watch TV, have breakfast and walk to school with his two kids. He told me, ‘The door is open’. We couldn’t have done it without that help.
At one point I was evicted (from house) during school and my instructor, Miss Terri Castle, was helping me with all the emotional issues I was going through. Everyone, from Financial Aid to the school President made everyone feel they were there to support each other, celebrate each other. It was like a family, and they were there every step of the way. I didn’t have anyone else, so to have this in school was a big deal for me.
I’d bailed so many times going to community college, that I feel it was the support system at SJVC that helped me get through it.
What has this struggle taught you?
It was a very small amount of time in the bigger picture. I’m gong to be forty this year and I’ve waited all this time. If I knew when I was younger that this (career program education) was an option, I would have jumped on it. I tell my friend’s daughter who is nineteen that she needs to start thinking about her future – before kids and life gets in the way.
What most intimidated you about entering a new job market?
One of my biggest things is that I’d never made a resume. I never had to, I would just go and find a job. A Career Services Advisor (at SJVC) showed me the pertinent things you have to show in a resume and why. I’d also never had a formal interview in my life, and I was nervous about what to do and what to say. We practiced this so that I could answer questions without stumbling and go into an interview feeling confident.
Where did you land after completing your Medical Office Administration program?
I am a Patient Services Representative for Tenet Health Care where I’ve worked for two years.
What do you like about your position’s daily responsibilities?
I like that there’s a protocol for everything that has to be done every day. My co-worker went to SJVC’s MOA program also, and we seem to be the most functional office here. We have the way we do things, a flow to our office that helps things function better.
All the medical terminology I learned (at SJVC) is helpful for us to be able to do our job effectively. We can see how all the medical pieces fit and connect all the dots. I have a natural, organized mind that plays into this position. I ask myself, what makes the best sense and is the most efficient way to do this.
Looking back at your struggle to get to this success, what inspired you to keep pushing?
At SJVC’s Orientation we were given a 3×5 card and asked to write down why we were doing this (enrolling in program). I wrote I was ‘doing this for my kids’. The cards were put up on a bulletin board in the hallway under “Find Your Why”. It was a constant, visual reminder of my ‘why’. No matter how many times I was so tired, so broke and felt I can’t keep doing this, I’d walk by that board and there it was. This is what I’m doing to support my family.
Was it worth it?
The kids were supportive, but they saw how exhausted I was the first couple of months. So much was going through my head, I would just come home and fall asleep on the couch. Now, they love seeing me come home in scrubs and are really proud of the work that I did to get here and what I do now.
Yes, this worked out really well. I can’t believe it was just 9-months of my life – and here I am!
Learn about a career working in a medical office
Medical secretaries and administrative assistants act as the glue that holds together all the other pieces of the health care experience and allows doctors and other professionals to deliver the best possible care to patients.
Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.