Catherine, age 38, started the program in August last year, and hopes to graduate in May this year.
Catherine and her husband Janos, an internet marketer from Hungary, have been married three years; they have a four legged ‘child’ named ‘Muppet’ – a Mini Schnauzer/Poodle mix, a Schnoodle!
Carrington is not Catherine’s first attempt at college; she went to junior college straight out of high school 20 years ago, but she got frustrated with all the general education requirements.
“I got tired of it because I felt that I wasn’t moving forward – there were a lot of general education requirements in the JC program that weren’t tailored to what I wanted. I thought I wanted to be an English teacher, but they had me doing all these math classes…it didn’t make sense to me. To be honest, at 18 I didn’t really know what I wanted to do; I went to college because that’s what I was supposed to do, but I didn’t have a clue where I was headed. Out of frustration I decided to leave, and went out into the workforce.”
After leaving junior college, Catherine moved to Hawaii. She had some family there and wanted to try living somewhere different. She worked as a barista, had jobs in the foodservice industry, and although it was fun for awhile, she soon discovered that vacationing and living in Maui are two very different things. She actually did two stints on the island but decided, once and for all, that she wanted to come back to the Bay Area about 11 years ago. Catherine then worked at a specialty grocery store for about ten years until injury forced her to rethink her future.
“Unfortunately I hurt my back. I couldn’t return due to the lifting requirements. It took me a year to realize my back wouldn’t improve enough to go back, it was “OK, so what’s next?”
My dad suggested that I’d make a great nurse. He’s had a lot of medical issues these past few years; whenever my mom was out of town I’d be the one to look after him. That made me feel really good; helping somebody who can’t help themselves is an awesome feeling. I have a big heart, and I’m a caring person so I had to think carefully about my future; I decided to investigate the medical field.”
Catherine bounced around between wanting to go into nursing, medical assisting, and becoming a nursing assistant. She researched a couple of local colleges; and then she noticed a Carrington College California commercial.
“I knew there was a Carrington campus close to my house, and the commercials were always on TV. So I called the number on the screen, and was told that my local campus was having an Open House BBQ soon. When the day came, I grabbed my husband and went down to the campus; they had booths set up for all their programs and I picked up as much literature as I could.
I brought the information home, went through it all, and decided that Medical Assisting was the program best suited to my life and my physical limitations. I went back in and did the assessment for the program, and got started shortly thereafter.”
Several factors made Catherine choose Carrington over the other local colleges she investigated.
“The accelerated program really appealed to me; at some of the other schools it would have taken me two years to achieve what I could do in nine months at Carrington. I didn’t have that much time; I needed to get back out there. I went on a couple of walk-thrus, I met some of the instructors, and everyone seemed really friendly. Also the program was affordable for my budget, and they were so helpful with financial aid. Plus it was close to home. Carrington had everything I was looking for.”
Catherine also liked the fact that Carrington offered career services support, and that the six week medical assisting externship would be arranged for her.
Now six months into her studies, with about three months until graduation, Catherine has learned a lot about herself, in addition to the technical skills of the profession.
“It’s been excellent; honestly I love it. I’ve learned that I have potential that I never dreamed of. I don’t want to ‘toot my own horn’, but I’ve discovered that I’m a very smart person. I’ve gone from bagging peoples’ groceries to drawing peoples’ blood! I would have never dreamed that I’d have the intellectual capacity, nor the drive, or the ambition to do this.
This school has taught me that if you put your mind to something, you can really accomplish almost anything you want to… if you work hard enough. Week by week I surprise myself by the things I learn; my self-confidence is so much higher now. My sense of accomplishment has gone through the roof!”
Catherine always felt that she had more to give back, but she never found the avenue to do that until now. With a medical assisting career she is going to be making a difference in peoples’ lives every day.
Catherine is looking forward to starting her externship in March, and then getting on with her career once she graduates in May. In an ideal world she sees herself working in a general practice environment.
“I’d like to work in an outpatient family clinic. I have a wide variety of interests, so a family practice or outpatient clinic where I’m working with people with a range of medical issues, from young to old, would be perfect for me. To help me achieve that goal, my career services advisor suggested that I find a volunteering position, so in January I started volunteering in a regional hospital.”
Having made the decision to go back to school at the age of 38, Catherine has some great advice for people who are delaying making that commitment to enroll, or maybe even considering quitting school.
“I tell people not to be afraid. Don’t judge yourself by your age, or think it’s too late to start something new. That was my thing; when I first got hurt I thought “What am I supposed to do now…I have no training…” I was afraid… In fact I almost didn’t go to that barbecue because I doubted myself. Then I was afraid to go to the assessment test…”what if I don’t pass?”
You’re not limited by age, by disability, by previous life experience; don’t think you’re not smart enough. Every day is an opportunity to make a change in your life; take the first step and see what happens. If you’re on the fence about school, it never hurts to take a look, or talk to somebody. With the right support unit, you can learn pretty much anything. I could still be sitting on the couch feeling sorry for myself because of my back; but once it clicked I realized I still had so much to offer.”
That’s not to say there won’t be difficult times; doing pretty much anything worthwhile can be difficult, and it was no different for Catherine who learned to conquer her fears.
“The first day, honestly, I came home in tears. I questioned myself and my abilities; I thought – “What have I got myself into?” And you know there are still days when I say to myself – “Am I going to be able to learn this?” But, you know, I always end up doing OK! There are always people there to support you.
At Carrington they judge you as a whole – your professionalism, your attitude – you don’t have to be the smartest person in the class. There’s a lot more that goes into giving people care than just your brain. Honestly, it can be a struggle, but it’s so worth it. I tell new students – “Don’t get overwhelmed, you will get through this.” I tell them that I’m so glad I didn’t quit when it got difficult because I would have missed out on a new life…literally.”
For comprehensive consumer information on our Medical Assisting program, visit carrington.edu/degrees/medical-assisting/
Program availability varies by location.