Grad Q&A with Medical Office Administration graduate Coral Rose
Coral Rose knows all about hard work. She was used to balancing two or three minimum wage jobs and pushing through long hours, shift changes and co-worker no-shows. Since graduating high school, she could not remember ever being without a job…or two. She spent many years working in kitchens, the food industry and wherever she could scratch out a living. But her twenties were slipping away and when her son, Ewin, turned 2-years old, she knew it was time to reach higher.
“You know what, today is the day I’m going to go check out a school,” she remembers telling herself. “And right then an ad for SJVC popped up on my phone!” Coral made the call to San Joaquin Valley College’s Atascadero campus.
Why college now?
I was in a moment where I was struggling by myself and had a baby. I was extremely overwhelmed. It’s not that I didn’t like my job (market), but it felt like I was breaking myself, breaking my body for pennies. And I just felt like I could do more.
Plus, I was already losing so much time with my son. I wanted to be able to see my son every day.
What finally pushed you in the direction of career education?
It felt like a good direction, but I was scared. I didn’t sign up the first time I went (to SJVC campus). I had to think about it and make sure that I was going to be able to go into it knowing I’d be able to succeed. I had to make sure I had people ready to help me with childcare and make sure bosses would let me work the hours around the school.
Did SJVC give you the time and support you needed to make a good decision?
They told me they didn’t want me to do anything I wasn’t ready to do. I’m very ambitious when it comes to something I want to do, and when they explained what I would need I thought, ‘I could do this and do it really good’.
They gave me such reassurance; it made me feel capable, like I could hold my future in my hands.
Why did the Medical Office Administration program catch your attention?
I feel the medical field is always going to be needed, so no matter where I go there’s always going to be a need for me. I wanted stability – and not an industry that might go away. And I didn’t want to be 50-years old, frying chicken in the back of a market.
And the MOA certificate program was only (as few as) 9-months long. This was the very first MOA class the campus offered.
How hard was it to balance a work, school and home routine?
I’d go to work at the market at 4:30 AM, to school from 7:00 AM to noon, then back to work at the market at 1:00 PM until 4:30. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights I’d go to another job where I worked the grill, building pizzas on the line and doing dishes when we closed.
My mom, Julia, and I shared a house, and she was a big help with childcare. And one of my best friends, Acacia, helped me a lot by taking Ewin during the day.
How was your academic performance in the MOA program?
There were times I felt I could be falling behind. At first, I didn’t have a computer at home, so they let me come in with my son to do work on the computer at school. One of the teachers would even entertain my kid while I did my homework.
I didn’t pay attention in high school because I didn’t know better then. But, when you’re paying for school, you’re trying to get as much as you can.
Also, there was another girl in class with me that I had known for years, and it helped that we were both kind of competitive. We helped each other study and it worked very well because we both ended up with a 4.0 GPA all year long!
Was the Medical Office Administration program a good fit for you?
It actually went really well. I was a little surprised at how small the class size was, but every module we got one or two new students in the class.
My greatest stress was being on time! There was always so much stress to get out of work, changing into my uniform, running out the door – and supervisors (at work) were always annoyed with me because I was leaving. But I made it!
You successfully completed the first MOA graduating class. Was the stress worth it?
I just kept telling myself, ‘I’m busting my butt now so that in the future I’ll only have to work one job.’ It was very hard and there were times I was on the edge of an emotional breakdown. I would remind myself that it would be better in the future.
And that happened. I’m more marketable now. That’s the reason I went in and did this, so that I could find something better to do to survive. This (knowledge and skill) makes me feel like I could just go if I wanted to. I could leave and feel confident that I would be able to take care of us and actually have a life that is not paycheck-to-paycheck.
What do you do in your current Medical Office Administration position? What does the future look like?
I get all of the calls or submissions online for insurance authorizations for surgical procedures for a 3-office surgery center. Our doctors don’t just do surgeries at our locations, but at hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers.
I was hired to be at the front administrative desk, and we (medical staff) do office visits, evaluations, check-ups and sometimes refer patients to other facilities that their insurance is contracted with. I’m a numbers person and can crunch numbers, but I don’t do a lot of that in the position I currently have.
I’m probably going to stay where I’m at for now. I deserve this.
What is life like for you and your son now?
My son was about three when I graduated. I wanted him to see me in school, see me do the things that were going to help us in life. I wanted him to see the drive I had that he might develop within himself.
Now I see my son every day. We have our own studio space with plenty of room, a whole yard, pool, play structure and we’re right across the street from the park.
He goes to school, ‘Like mommy goes to school’, he says. Every time we drive by SJVC he says, ‘There’s Mommy’s school!’ He’s a very smart boy and he likes to learn.
I learned a long time ago that no one else is going to give me anything. The only thing that was going to make it better is if I made it better. And I deserve it.
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.
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