Alumni Spotlight – Meet Lorraine Blyden

Lorraine BlydenLorraine Blyden once thought she’d like to be a nurse, but when she realized she has a queasy stomach, she decided Medical Billing & Coding (MBC) would be a better fit. Lorraine successfully completed the MBC program at our Carrington College California San Leandro campus in September this year.

The last 12 months was a year of unexpected change for Lorraine. When we spoke she’d just celebrated her birthday, a day that caused her to reflect on the ups and downs of the last year.

“I just turned 56 on September 9th; my birthday last year was different because the organization I’d been working for, for the past 15 years, decided to retire me the day after I turned 55. I didn’t see it coming.

I saw it happening around me, they were doing some restructuring and eliminated some positions, but I never thought it was going to happen to me. They ‘graciously retired me’ – that’s a nice way of putting it – but I had no advance notice. But all in all, it was a wonderful organization and I have nothing negative to say about it. But had I not gone to Carrington, I wouldn’t have known that the grass is still green!”

Lorraine always thinks things happen for a reason. Tragically her sister Debbie Brown had been diagnosed with colon cancer prior to Lorraine’s ‘retirement’, but that gave her time to help care for Debbie until she passed a few months later.

“I was glad that my time was freed up; it allowed me to spend time with her and work with the hospice and nurses. I wasn’t worried about getting another job at that time because I knew I had employable skills. What I didn’t know was whether I wanted to go back into HR.”

Lorraine’s enforced retirement actually turned out to be a blessing for her career. She’d been contemplating making a change, but like many of us, she’d never taken that first step.

“It worked out for the best. The responsibilities of the job I had were so enormous – sometimes you know when you’ve maxed yourself out. I’d been managing a lot of employees for at least 10 years and I knew that I wanted a change, I just didn’t know how – and I was afraid to actually verbalize it because sometimes if you speak then it will happen. And I didn’t think I was actually ready for it to happen.”

Lorraine’s path to our Medical Billing & Coding program was a long, convoluted trail. Despite her own best efforts, she somehow kept finding herself working back in HR.

“I was in the military for six years; when I got out in 1982 I wanted to utilize my GI Bill®, so I enrolled in a Medical Assisting program. I was able to do a year but my husband was still in the military and we went back overseas. I wanted to be a Medical Assistant, but here I am employed again in HR because that’s what I’d done as an active soldier.

When we came back to the United States I worked as a Benefits Coordinator. I got laid off then got approval by the unemployment office to go to a medical specialty school to study Transcribing, Insurance and Reporting. After completing that I got hired again in HR! I said to myself ‘that’s my second strike’.

I’d always wanted something where I could control my own hours, supplement my income, and possibly put my grandchildren through school. I’ve been around the health care profession in HR for over 30 years  dealing with health and welfare benefits. This has kind of been the field I’ve always been in. That’s why, going back to school this time, I definitely wanted to try Medical Billing & Coding.”

After some time at nursing school back in the day, Lorraine realized her future lay in the back office.

“In between all that I’d decided to be a nurse; I went to nursing school for three years until I discovered that I had a queasy stomach. I woke up one day in my nutrition class and realized I was chasing a dream that I wasn’t cut out for. That’s when I saw the correlation between me as a Benefits Coordinator and Disability Manager versus Nursing. I realized that I could still care for patients’ needs, just as a ‘nurse’ on the administration side.”

Before speaking with Carrington, Lorraine had been interested in enrolling at another college.

“When I checked in with Carrington I honestly got that personal touch; they were sensitive to my situation with my sister, which the other school definitely was not. They held off, called me back when I asked them. I wanted a school where they took a personal interest in me, as opposed to somewhere that was trying to meet a quota. When you feel that someone’s going to care about you, it makes you want to do more. With Carrington I felt like a person rather than a number.”

Lorraine did initially have some concerns about going back to school again, later in her career.

“When you get a little older you do worry about going to school again with a lot of younger kids. You know – you’ve established a work ethic and things like that, things that young kids haven’t had to deal with yet. That’s always something you contend with in the back of your mind. I started right after the new year, January 2nd I think it was. My last official day was September 6th.”

So almost 12 months to the day after her ‘retirement’, on her 56th birthday, Lorraine started a new job.

“I’m so thankful to Carrington; they sent my resume out to the California Service Bureau, an accounts receivable collection agency, for my externship. I didn’t know this at the time, but my resume and HR experience really caught their eye. They told me about four weeks into my externship that they’d been working on an HR position. Of course I told them that I wasn’t here for that; I was just trying to do my best as an MBC extern. But they told me to take a look at the job posting.

So here I am – newly appointed in the HR Administrator position. Back in HR! I have resigned myself that this is my calling, this is where I’m supposed to be. But I’ve got the best of both worlds because I’m working for a company that has a lot of Carrington billing and coding graduates; I’m doing the recruiting, but Carrington has provided me with the background to really understand the business.

Although I’m not working in a billing capacity, I understand the needs of the business when I speak with managers, employees and candidates. Had it not been for Carrington this opportunity would not have opened up, certainly not to this magnitude. It’s been a blessing. I honestly didn’t know what the year was going to bring, but the fact that I started here on my 56th birthday was a dream come true.”

Even though she has landed back in HR, Lorraine has no intention of letting her Carrington training slip. When she can, she hopes to continue her learning because she has a definite goal in mind. Perhaps a second job at some point, or a job for ‘semi-retirement’.  She hopes that Medical Billing & Coding may be able to offer her that, in turn giving her the ability to help her family.

“I never had anything handed down to me, so what I wanted to do is find something that I could do at home; something that could help me put my grandkids through college. That desire hasn’t gone away. I’ve got the training, I have the skills. One day I hope to do some side by side training to learn more.”

Looking back on her time at school, Lorraine happily recommends Carrington College California.

“The quality of students stood out; I saw students who really wanted to learn. The support from the faculty and staff was outstanding – as I said before, they really cared. They just made it a very enjoyable experience; you’re exposed to so much knowledge and learning it’s a constant bombardment, but a good bombardment if you know what I mean. You have to know what you want and put the effort in.

It wasn’t easy, there were many sleepless nights, but if you really want a career with opportunities you have to work for it. I took everything in – life experience taught me to take college very seriously. I found myself as a mentor and a leader to some of the younger students. You have to be prepared to sacrifice your personal life to a degree; but when you’re older you’ve already done that. I gave up partying years ago, unless it’s at my grandchildren’s birthday parties of course!”

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