Andero Anderson, age 56, is about to start his externship at Creekside Hospice in Las Vegas. Andero is close to completing the Medical Assisting program at our Las Vegas, NV, campus. A 13 year army veteran, Andero has discovered a love for medical assisting that he wasn’t really expecting to find.
Firstly thank you for your service Andero, tell us why you decided to go back to school?
I went back to school with the help of the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP)*. I was just in time, and I managed to get nine months of benefits. One of the stipulations of VRAP was that the training must be in a field where there is a critical shortage of people, where there’s high-demand, so I chose the medical field.
Why did you choose Medical Assisting in particular?
Many years ago, after I left the Army, I was a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) for a few months; I really enjoyed working with people in the health care field. I enjoyed the direct care aspects, assisting people with the activities of daily living – positioning patients, helping them dress and bathe for example.
But, honestly, at the time my interests were different; I was more concerned with making fast money. So when a Corrections Officer position opened up offering more money, I went for that instead. I spent 13 years working in Corrections. When I looked into VRAP last year, I decided that Medical Assisting was closest to what I’d done before.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned on the program?
There are so many things that I didn’t know to be honest. I do like classroom study; I’m a hands-on person so I definitely enjoy that part of it. I didn’t realize that a medical assistant did so many different things around a doctor’s office. I thought they were just the person who saw the patient first, took the chief complaint, took vital signs, and then passed you on to the doctor. I guess I didn’t know that the person who drew blood or gave injections in your doctor’s office was also probably a medical assistant.
On that subject, what was it like giving your first injection?
It was pretty tough the first time; I’ve had to learn to be a little more gentle. You know most Medical Assisting program students are female; in fact I’m the only male in our class. I have to say that it’s a little different to what I’m used to. In my experience, both the Department of Corrections and the Military are very ‘male’ dominated environments, so this has taken some getting used to!
What’s the biggest thing you’ve changed about yourself during the program?
I think I’ve had to adapt the way I communicate. It’s one thing to communicate with a bunch of guys in the Army or in Corrections, but communicating in a class of 16 women is something different.
What does your wife think about you spending so much time with all these young women?
Haha! You know at first she used to mention it more, but now she doesn’t say too much about it! As long as I’m doing well in school I’m OK – I guess if my grades weren’t too good she may have some comments!
In all seriousness, how has it been being the only guy in class?
As far as the classroom goes, everything’s cool. But once we’re away from the classroom, like out in the break room, I do have moments where I have to pull back a little – I do consider myself a ‘man’s man’ so sometimes I have to take a break as well! I hope I’m not coming off in any way as some kind of chauvinist, because I’m not; it’s been a great experience and I wouldn’t change it!
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about yourself on the program?
I’ve learned that even at my age, there are lots of new things to learn. Things are constantly changing and it’s good to keep up. I haven’t been in a classroom for many years so I was a little concerned about going back to be honest, wondering if I could do well. I knew that I would have to apply myself, and that it would be a challenge to go to school, study and take care of things at home as well. I really didn’t think I’d take to it in quite the way I have. But it turns out that I really like the program and the profession.
Tell me three things you wish you’d known about the program when you started?
- Actually we’re now being introduced to an online associate’s degree completion program in Health Studies that’s available for Carrington Students. If I’d known that program was coming up when I applied for the VRAP last year, I’d have sought out funding for the associate’s degree program.
- I wish I’d known there was so much to learn about the human body – anatomy, physiology and so on. There’s a lot of detail to learn…
- I would have loved a heads-up on the medical terminology – there is just so much of it to learn. It’s so important to what we do; you really need to understand it so you know what’s being talked about – it’s like a whole other language!
Where do you hope your career goes from here?
I have my eyes set on working at the VA hospital; I do plan to become a nurse at some point down the road. How long that will take will depend on finances I guess. I think maybe I’ll work for a little while to get some experience, and then probably go back to school.
As a veteran, do you have any connections at the VA hospital that could help?
No, not really. But I’ve actually already submitted an application to them. I’m already considered eligible as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). I’m hoping my upcoming externship at Creekside Hospice will help; they have a wing out at the VA.
If there’s the possibility of a job with Creekside after my externship, I’m hoping that having both medical assisting and CNA qualifications could help me get a position at the wing in the hospital.
What discipline would you prefer to work in MA or CNA?
I really want to be able to put both things together in my career; I really enjoyed the direct patient care elements of being a Certified Nursing Assistant, but I also really enjoy the different things we do within the medical assisting field – drawing blood, giving injections and so on.
Tell me about your support network at home…
My wife Val has been very supportive; she really wants me to continue my education. We’ve been married for 18 years; we have two boys that are grown and out of the house. Val works as a Correctional Officer right now, but she’s close to retirement – three more years and she’ll be done. That’s why I chose a field with good employment prospects. I’m not planning on retiring…I’m going to work till it’s all over!
What’s the single biggest piece of advice you’d give to Carrington students just starting out?
I imagine that most people will be quite a few years younger than me, so I would simply say “take it seriously”. I’d also tell them to take the time to really learn the medical terminology well.
Last question Andero. What would you do with your time if you had an unexpected afternoon off?
I’d go work out; yep I’d probably go right to the gym!
For comprehensive consumer information on our programs, visit carrington.edu
* The VRAP Program Ended on March 31, 2014 – http://benefits.va.gov/VOW/education.asp
Program availability varies by location.