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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Military background is perfect lead-in to life as Medical Assisting student

February 20, 2017
Temecula Medical Assisting student Rachel Edwards
“I’m not going to stop here,” Rachel says of her Medical Assisting program. “I want to have at least 12 months of experience as a Medical Assistant, and then apply for a PA (Physician Assistant) program.”

20 years in the Marine Corps formed Rachel Edwards’ appreciation for self-discipline and order, two skills that come into serious play as a student. “Time management just kind of comes naturally to me with my military background,” she says. “I didn’t really have a choice; the military demands structure.”

Rachel never really had any doubts about the career direction toward which she would channel those attributes. She was always drawn to health care, and Medical Assisting seemed a good point of focus.

“It’s just about the people and helping them; that’s what drives me,” she explains. “In the medical field, you really have to have compassion dealing with people who are quite possibly having one of the worst times of their lives.”

The time was right. Rachel, her husband Auburne (also in the military) and their four children had recently relocated to California, and she would retire from military service in May 2017. Early last year, she began to search online for the right medical program and college. She found SJVC, the Medical Assisting program, and the Temecula campus.

“I knew SJVC had a great reputation from friends in the medical field,” says Rachel. “What was kind of a surprise was that the staff [were not like those of] a typical college where, if you show up, you show up. These instructors took a personal interest in every student.”

Rachel quickly got into a groove of work, school, and family that left little time for anything else. “Weekends have always been family time; now it’s homework,” she admits. “Auburne has taken on every role in the house: Chef, chauffeur – he does it all. It has definitely been on him for the last 12 months of this journey. And, my little 12-year-old Anabella. She is my little quizzer who takes index cards and asks me questions while I drive.”

Rachel excelled in the Medical Assisting program, especially with the hands-on training. “Blood. I love it!” she exclaims. “I have no problem giving injections, drawing blood. Your mind is at ease because they show us what to do, then watch us do it – and that’s it. The instructors set the environment where you can learn.”

She laughs remembering students’ facial expressions as they both gave and drew blood during this learning process. “The ‘patient’ had a ‘don’t care’ look on their face, or their eyes closed and lips tight like something really dramatic is going to happen when the truth is they probably won’t even feel it,” she says. “The Medical Assistants are very focused like they are about to change the world.”

Scarier for most students is math. “I knew I was not an ‘A’ math student, but I have a tendency to want a perfect grade,” says Rachel. “My drive to finish was bigger than a math class, and I just tried to stay positive with that.” Rachel is managing an impressive 3.83 GPA despite her math struggles.

“Rachel presents herself with poise and intelligence,” says Shannon Koh, Academic Dean. “She serves as a voice of reason to some of her younger, just-out-of-high-school classmates. Her work ethic is outstanding and she is just a pleasure to be around.”

Although just 38 years old, Rachel has become an unofficial mentor to many of those younger students. “Being in a combat zone in other countries, this 14 months of ‘sacrificing’ is a piece of cake,” she reasons. “I can see how someone just out of high school might not see it that way; I wouldn’t have either. But life experience helps you affirm what you want.”

Rachel is willing to give others the benefit of her hard-won wisdom. “If there is something you have a passion for, you will make the sacrifice,” she emphasizes. “That little voice you keep hearing won’t go away, and you just have to take action.”

She tries to explain the difference between a decision made as a knee-jerk reaction and a well-thought-out commitment toward the future.

“It’s easy to enroll, to start something because there’s nothing else to do,” she says. “You have that excitement for a few hours or few days. But if that excitement doesn’t stay, you’re going to have a hard time staying in that program.”

Even then it is not easy to hold onto what it takes to fulfill your dreams. “Sure, you would like to sit on the couch and watch TV, but watching TV is not going to make something happen,” Rachel points out. “You have to really want it.”

And Rachel wants it very much.

“I’m not going to stop here,” she says. “I want to have at least 12 months of experience as a Medical Assistant, and then apply for a PA (Physician Assistant) program.”

Rachel wants to ‘test the waters’ first. “I would love to be around babies all day, but also a huge part of my heart loves elderly people. I haven’t really done anything yet; I just want to help everybody.”

She will graduate from the Medical Assisting program in April full of new-found knowledge and a renewed spirit for a career adventure. Anything can happen.

“I’m excited and nervous,” she shares, “I just take it all in. I’ll learn and will take it from there.”


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