Medical Assisting program student among first Rancho Mirage graduating class
Josefina Regalado barely got to celebrate the completion of her Clinical Medical Assisting program and inclusion in the first group of students to graduate from SJVC’s Rancho Mirage campus before she accepted a position that put her at the front lines of coronavirus testing.
“I’m the one testing, using nasal swabs that will get results in two hours or less, or be sent to the clinic to run tests and let people know the results by email or text message,” says Josefina. Her employer, Premier Urgent Care, is open from 7:00 AM until 11:00 PM, and by the time Josefina begins her 12-hour shift at 7:00 AM, people have been in line for a couple of hours. Some of those in line have a persistent cough.
Each workday Josefina is fully outfitted in protective gear: gown, gloves, two masks and a face shield. “I change gloves after each patient I test,” says Josefina. She follows safety protocol for every personal interaction. “I uncover their nose, but keep their mouth covered. I don’t want them to spread any germs around us.”
At the end of the day Josefina has deep indentions on her face from the protective gear necessary to keep her safe from the never-seeming-to-end line of concerned and cautious people…and potential threat. It is strenuous work, even if contamination is reduced to the lowest possible opportunity. “I’m standing all day, so at the end of the day I’m hurting,” she says.
Josefina is sensitive to her patients’ concerns and fears. “Some people are actually scared of having a swab in their nostrils. They are afraid I will take it all the way in. And some are very nervous about their test results.” She provides a full explanation of the testing procedure and answers questions about test result timelines and symptoms. She knows much of this information from personal experience.
“I tested positive for CoVid back in November,” she confides. “I had a fever, body aches, loss of appetite, loss of sense of smell and taste, a dry cough and shortness of breath.” Her suspected diagnosis was confirmed when she tested positive for the virus. Josefina’s husband, Jesus, tested positive as well. They quarantined together and treated their symptoms with prescribed medications and other herbal and traditional remedies.
The hardest part was sending their four children, Pedro (10), Isabella (8), Pascual (3) and Roman (18 months) to her mom’s and in-laws’’ homes for two weeks for their own protection. “Just the feeling of being sick, then knowing the kids were not there, was pretty devastating for us. My husband was desperate for getting them back, but we had to recover first.”
Even with the pandemic, her Medical Assistant position is the career Josefina had hoped for. But that vision was a little slow to materialize.
“After I graduated from high school, I did field labor – lemons and grapes – and seasonal retail jobs during the holidays,” she remembers. She also worked the cash register at Coachella events. A few years passed before he had a realization that would trigger change. “I was at a point where I thought about myself and my kids and knew I needed to go back to school and get a career.”
Medical Assisting was always an interest to her because of her dad, Pascual. “My Dad had kidney disfunction and when I was in high school, I helped him get to his appointments.” Losing her dad a few years later made her even more interested in health care. “I wanted to grow personally and get more educated so that I could help out people in ways I wish I could have helped my Dad.”
Josefina had some medical front office training in high school, so it made sense to her to balance that with intensive back office medical training. “I started Googling schools and decided to look for something with shorter training for a career.” San Joaquin Valley College’s new Rancho Mirage campus location caught her eye. She made an appoint to visit the campus.
“Everybody on the staff were really friendly and kind,” says Josefina. “Gina (Admissions Advisor) was really, really helpful.” Going back to school was a big decision. “There was a point when I had second thoughts,” says Josefina. “Gina reminded me of why I wanted to come back to school. I wanted something better for my family and for myself. Also, I wanted to be a role model for my kids. If they see me graduating, then I might see them graduate (from college).”
Josefina enrolled a few weeks later and attended student orientation excited for the future. “I was all set to start (Clinical Medical Assisting – CMA – program) when we got the stay-at-home order to do everything online.”
This was a major stumbling block for Josefina. “I had to do everything (classes) online and we didn’t have enough signal (at home) for good internet service. And my kids were at home instead of going to school (distance learning). But I pulled myself together and got everything going good.”
Both Jesus and Josefina’s mom, Veronica, jumped in to support her commitment to her education. “My mom was here in the mornings to watch the kids while I had my classes,” says Josefina. Jesus provided a lot of emotional encouragement. “He wanted me to go back to school to have something career-wise for our family.” He also occasionally took over kitchen duties. “His best dish was potatoes. He would dice and fry potatoes first, the pour egg in.” It was his own ‘scrambled potato-eggs’ invention.
It didn’t take long for a routine to provide a strong foundation toward success. “I’d wake up really early in the morning before the kids did and focus on my school and classes then set up classes for the two older kids on their iPads – they had remote classes as well,” says Josefina. “I’d stay up late at night doing my homework.”
She also had strong support from her CMA program faculty and staff. “They were very caring and very motivating for us to get everything done,” says Josefina. “If I didn’t understand something, they would take the time to show me the way they were trained. There was a lot of extra time they would work with me personally and individually.”
Then she got to the fun part. “We went to labs twice a week (in protective gear) to learn and practice new medical procedures,” says Josefina. “I’m more of a hands-on person, so this was my favorite part.” This is where students learned how to perform blood draws and venipunctures. For some students, needles take some getting used to. “The first time I had to draw blood, to actually poke somebody with a needle, I was very, very, nervous,” says Josefina. “The instructors were there to provide help and to guide us on how to do the procedure, and that actually helped a lot. After dedication and more practice, I succeeded and I’m more confident now.”
That confidence paid off during the last 6-weeks of her CMA program when she did her CMA program externship at a family practice clinic. “The very first day they had me doing injections and I was confident because I had just been practicing that in class.”
Everything just came together: as obstacles appeared, solutions materialized to overcome them. “I never had serious second thoughts about my career choice,” says Josefina. “I knew this was what I wanted to do. I knew it for sure when I first went to class. I knew it from the very beginning.”
Now Josefina and her family are living the life she and Jesus envisioned. “Just thinking about my kids and how I can provide for them a little more than if I hadn’t gone to school. Also, there’s that quality time with them because in retail I had different shifts so we couldn’t plan times together.”
She had been holding this dream for a long time. “My Mom and my Dad were the greatest inspiration in my life because I saw them working in the fields, and they told me they wanted to see us (their six children) doing something better than they did.” Her parents came to the U.S. from Mexico so that their children might have better opportunities and greater success in life.
Josefina has some advice for anyone at that same crossroad of getting by or getting ahead. “You learn a lot about yourself when you take risks. You learn patience with yourself, about not giving up and about accomplishment and self-esteem when you stick with it. You also learn you’re stronger than you thought you were.”
Josefina has an expanded vision for herself of one day teaching others, helping them to find their highest accomplishments. She wants to be a greater source of inspiration. Her words are already there.
Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.