Dori Thompson, aged 43, enrolled on the Medical Billing & Coding (MBC) program at our Carrington College Las Vegas, NV, campus in November 2012; she graduated in September 2013. She is currently enrolled in the online degree completion program, offered by Carrington College California, which culminates in an Associate of Science degree in Health Studies.
Why did you first decide to go back to school?
It was actually a spur of the moment thing; one day I was watching TV and I thought to myself “How about I go back to school?” I’d always wanted to do Billing & Coding but I’d never got off my butt and done anything about it – I’d talk and talk and talk about it, but I never did it.
Why was it different this time?
There were a couple of reasons. The first was that I was in my early 40s and looking for change. The job market in Las Vegas was really difficult; I struggled to maintain a steady job and seemed to be going from job, to job, to job, in different industries. I was tired of having to relearn different things all the time. At one point, when the economy was at its worst, I just couldn’t get a job at all. I wanted something that I could focus in on, something to learn and continue to improve on for the rest of my career.
The second reason was that I met my husband – Herman – during that time. He has quite a few medical conditions, so he became my main motivation. When I was out of work at one point, and Herman was going through the peak of his health issues, I thought I needed to do something.
I needed to reinvent myself, get myself a new footing in a more stable, more secure career, rather than continue this job to job to job cycle. I chose MBC because the health care industry isn’t going away, and at the same time I thought I could better equip myself to understand what Herman is going through. I thought it would be the best way for me to get a better understanding of the medical terminology that his doctors were using. I thought it would help, and it really did…and in a lot of different situations.
So how did you get started?
I just picked up the phone and called the Carrington College Las Vegas campus one day, just to get some information. I spoke with a gentleman in Enrollment Services named Zach. I made an appointment not expecting much of anything, I just wanted some information on the program. I met with Zach; he was so easy going, so personable and so excited about his job… it was infectious.
Tell me about a rather unusual meeting with the Student Finance team?
Zach took me on a tour of the campus and I talked with the Kelly from the Student Finance department. It just so happened that the staff were having a 1970s fancy-dress day that day; she was sitting there with a big black afro wig with a headband, wearing a Boston Celtics sweat suit; super funny looking, but taking me through my options.
It felt so fun; she’s such a no-nonsense person but she was so professional; I thought this is where I want to be. She made it so easy for me to understand everything; it was such an easy transition. She introduced me to some instructors, and before I knew it I was signing papers!
You make it sound rushed, but was that a good thing?
Yes, I honestly didn’t think enrolling in college would be that easy. I was expecting a lot of red tape. And I was expecting a long wait to get started; not the case – I think I waited maybe a month! My husband went with me to orientation, which was a great feeling because he had been so supportive. They just made it easy, they made it seem like – “Hey why not?” – You know what I mean?
Tell us about your family
Herman and I have been together for five years, but we’ve been married for two. I have four boys from my first marriage. My oldest and youngest are in California, they live with my mother. My eldest is 22 and he’s in college studying Aerodynamic Engineering; my baby is 17 and graduates high school in June. In between those two, I have twin boys who turn 20 at the end of April. The older twin is going to school in Reno, he’s studying Contracting and Electrical Engineering. The younger one is back in Las Vegas; he’s still trying to discover himself and what he wants to do, but he’ll figure it out.
I don’t see them often, but we talk often. That’s another thing I hated about not having a stable career. I don’t have the funds to go and see them as often as I’d like. So that’s another goal, once I get stable in my career, I will be able to go and see them more often. That’s a big, big goal!
What do the boys in college think about mom being in college? Are they excited?
They’re very excited for me! My oldest has always been very studious. Before I went to college, he was already determined to make a good life for himself. My oldest twin went to school after seeing me go to college. I think I was a positive influence – “Hey if mom can do it, I can do it!” My youngest has decided that he wants to go to college to study computer drafting and things of that nature.
What was the biggest thing you wanted to improve about yourself?
The one thing I wanted to change the most was my knowledge. I’m somewhat of a perfectionist – so I need to know what I know, and know that I know it well! If someone asks me a question, I want to be able to give them the right answer.
Aside from that, I wanted the knowledge to better understand what the doctors and nurses were saying when treating my husband. I wanted to be able to get involved in their discussions in a meaningful way. Knowing what I’m talking about, knowing what he’s going through, and knowing if the doctors are being thorough and sincere in his care was what I wanted. With my new understanding of medical terminology and anatomy, that last one has been more of a bonus than I ever thought it would be.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give to students just starting out?
I would tell them that the only person who can keep you from fulfilling your dreams is you – nobody else can stop you. It’s really up to you whether or not you succeed.
What are you doing now?
Just after my graduation, we had to move out of state for Herman to have a dual transplant. I was trying to find a job in medical billing & coding, but because I was in a new place and trying to take care of him, and I didn’t have much experience in the field, I wasn’t having much luck. But my mentality was “Ok, I want to be in the medical field, what else can I do in the meantime?”
As I wasn’t working, and while we were trying to get situated here, I thought building on my education would be a great way to spend my free time. So I enrolled in the online degree completion program that’s offered by Carrington College California. In August I hope to have earned an Associate of Science degree in Health Studies.
You can read more about Dori’s ongoing experiences as a student on the Health Studies program here.
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