Student Q&A with Clinical Medical Assisting student Arely Casillas
Arely Casillas has known she was going to have a medical career since she was 7-years old, and she was not going to waste any time getting there. In her junior year of high school, Arely transferred to distance learning so that she could work part-time to provide some financial assistance to her parents, Alfonso and Gema. But, that independence from the classroom only accelerated her studies and she graduated high school in January 2021, 5-months early.
At eighteen, Arely enrolled in SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting program on the Rancho Mirage campus. She is the first in her family to attend college.
There were no doubts for her career choice – just a focused ambition to work with people on a very important and personal level.
What drew you so strongly to a career in the medical field?
When I was fourteen my mom got sick, and I helped her out a lot. I was hands-on involved with her care and she didn’t know English, so I was translating a lot. The medical personnel didn’t explain a lot, like her medication and the side effects. It got me more involved and thinking that if I get into the medical field, I’ll make sure patients understand everything. And, if I don’t speak their language, I’ll see that someone is there who can explain things to them.
How did you decide on SJVC’s Clinical Medical Assisting (CMA) program?
I applied somewhere else, but they didn’t call me back, email or anything. But the first time I called SJVC and talked with Chris, he was calling me every week. I really liked the interest they had in helping me.
We (with parents) did the virtual tour (Covid restrictions prohibited in-person visits) and even my parents loved the school. When we saw what the payments were going to be, that made everything perfect. I enrolled in February and started (on-campus) in March.
What made you choose education over going straight to work, especially if there are financial considerations?
Seeing my dad work out in the fields, that really pushed me to be better, to go to college and study. He always told me, ‘Go to college. I don’t want to see you out here in the hot sun’. I worked as a teacher’s aid and never had a hard job, but I’ve watched others work hard and that was the thing that impacted me most.
What was your first week of the CMA program like?
My first week of school I was really nervous and stressing out because I knew in the CMA program, you’re going to have a lot of homework. But it was not what I thought. You do some reading and answer some questions. And if you do your homework, you’re all set!
I really love the program and it’s not hard, honestly. You just have to study and make sure you do your labs.
We have about thirty in our class, and we would do group chats and if we don’t understand something we ask each other. Sometimes we would do homework together or just text each other.
What was one of the biggest surprises about your CMA program?
I was thinking that the teachers wouldn’t answer your questions or be there for you, but it was just the opposite. Honestly, the teachers are really helpful and always there for you. They make sure you really do have an interest and if you didn’t come to class they follow up. They care about who you are and how you’re feeling.
If you’re having trouble or having a bad day, they’re always there to talk to you about your problems. They listen and help you out. They treat you like family, honestly.
What was that ‘spark’ that told you this program and career were right for you?
A little more than a month there they were already teaching us how to draw blood and how to do injections. That excited me even more! My first-time drawing blood was scary because I was afraid of hurting someone. But it went well, and it really motivated me. The second time was on someone whose vein was big and when I poked him blood started coming out too fast and I got scared. But my instructor was there and said ‘Don’t worry, that is normal. You did good.’
When someone drew blood on me, it didn’t hurt. It’s weird because you see your classmates’ progress and you’re really happy for them, too.
Do you see your medical career coming into focus?
My goal is to work in a hospital because I’ll see a lot of patients there and I won’t be seeing the same people over and over, like in a private practice. I want to treat patients in a way that makes them feel comfortable and happy. I want to help them be calm because procedures can be scary. And I can help patients more by translating so that they really understand what’s going on.
What are your medical education and training aspirations?
I am thinking of going on to the LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse) program here on the Rancho Mirage campus, maybe right away after my CMA program. But first it’s really important to take the exam to get to be a Registered Medical Assistant. That would give me more opportunities and it is one of the goals I have in my mind.
I’m really good wherever I go because I love helping people.
What advice do you have for someone interested in a Medical Assisting career?
If you’re really interested in the medical field, you should try SJVC because they would really show an interest in you and are willing to help you – even your personal problems. The support you get here can make a lot of difference.
When I told my sister, Miriam, I was going to SJVC, she told me she wants to come here after she graduates (high school). I think she is interested in computers, maybe coding and processing in a medical office, so it would be the Medical Office Administration (MOA) program. She told me, ‘I want to be like you. I really love that college you’re going to and I see that they really treat you well.’
Find Your Path as a Medical Assistant
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Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.