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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Grad Q&A with Medical Office Administration graduate Nina Pabon

August 22, 2023

Twenty-two-year-old Nina Pabon knew she could not count on a secure future if she stayed in the retail and food industry jobs she had held since she was eighteen. She had squeezed in some community college credits and gotten her Gen Ed courses out of the way, but now she needed to focus her career direction.

Nina had always been interested in helping others navigate life struggles and felt ready to step onto the road that might take her to that position of support and influence. Her long-term goal is to become a family/marriage therapist, but she wanted to achieve that in well-planned stages. First: short-term training for a position that would give her income and schedule flexibility. Second: use that platform to pursue her higher career goal of marriage and family psychologist.

A medical background seemed a good place to start and SJVC’s Medical Office Administration (MOA) program on the SJVC Temecula campus drew her interest.


How was SJVC’s Medical Office Administration program a fit for your long-term career plan?

I needed to make more money to support myself while I go to school (for Psychology degree) and with my Medical Office Administration certificate and associate degree I could work part-time from home and have a more flexible schedule for extended education.


What made you choose SJVC’s Medical Office Administration program?

My aunt Salina is a manager in a doctor’s office, and she recommended SJVC because all the SJVC students (on extern/on-the-job experience) she had experienced did well and they usually ended up hiring them as interns. She is also the one who talked with me about needing a (temporary) career with a flexible schedule so that I could keep going to school for my Master’s degree in Psychology.


Doesn’t that require a lot of long-term discipline?

My dad (David) is a long-distance truck driver who has gotten up between 1:00-4:00 AM and worked hard so that my sister, little brother, and I could go to school and have any life that we wanted. Your work ethic is a really big thing and Dad set the example. He taught us you have to work to have more. My mom, Linda, made sure that we knew he did this for us.


What was your Medical Office Administration program like?

The program wasn’t too difficult, it was just more time management. It was definitely a lot more fast-paced, but I was told about that before I went in.


How was your connection with fellow classmates and instructors?

There were only twelve students in my class, so we got to be very closeknit. Classmates were always available for study groups and if I didn’t understand the coursework I could connect with our instructor. She was always available for phone calls or emails. She knew I was working, so would even help me a lot over weekends. All our instructors were great to work with and learn from.

SJVC has a really good support system.


What was your weekly routine to balance school with part-time work?

I had classes Mon-Thursday from 7:00 AM to 12:00 PM, then worked at a retail store from 1:00-6:00 PM and an 8-hour shift on Fridays. I knew going in there would be potential issues and difficulties. I had to give up most of my free time and social life. But I knew it would go by fast and in the end would be worth it.

But I really liked how it structured my week. And I liked school.


Did you have support at home?

I live with my boyfriend, Nathan, and he helped a lot. I’d come home and he’d have lunch ready for me. Throughout the program he did all our laundry and was working full-time and weekends.

I’d come home from work, and he’d make dinner and help me with homework – review drafts and lecture notes. If I got overwhelmed, he’d remind me that this was only temporary. He was fantastic. And I graduated with a 4.0 GPA.


How was your MOA extern experience (on-the-job training) in a medical facility?

It was explained to me that the extern experience was considered a possible hire opportunity. If the energy is good, work ethic is a match and it all fits well, I could possibly get hired. I was offered a position the last week of my externship and went to work right after I completed the program.


What are your current work responsibilities?

As a Billing and Referral Coordinator I help whatever department needs the most support. In Patient Relations, I help in the front office and follow up with patients after their medical referrals. I send out patient statements for charges for services and talk with patients who have questions about their bills.


Do you feel your current position has advancement opportunities?

With my Medical Office Administration certificate and the more experience I gain, the higher my pay and the higher my position.

And, since I don’t see patients directly, I have the potential to work from home – and go back to school for my Psychology degree.


What outcome do you envision?

I want to be a Family and Marriage therapist. I have a really great therapist and just know I would like talking to people and helping them through their problems. Family and marriage therapy addresses more common issues.


What does that education and career path look like?

I just finished my Associate of Science degree at SJVC and might go back (to school) to get another AS degree that is more psychology-based. When I’m not in school, I feel like I’m not progressing.


What advice would you give to others who might consider a college education and training plan to reach their career goals?

One of the hardest things about being my age and pursuing anything, is knowing what you want and what you have to be willing to sacrifice to get there. Just sitting down and looking at it straight on. Envision what you want that will motivate you to go down that tough road.

Communication and a strong support system is everything. I couldn’t have done any of this without Nathan, my family, SJVC support and people at work.

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