Student Spotlight – Meet Johnnie Murray

Johnnie Murray Carrington College SpokaneJohnnie Murray, aged 52, is a great example of how a career change can stir up passion for a new profession. Johnnie is a current student at our Carrington College Spokane campus; he’s studying for an Associate of Occupational Studies degree in Medical Radiography.

Johnnie started at Carrington in September 2012, and is coming to the end of the campus portion of the program. Next month he will start a one-year externship at a clinical site. This may surprise some of you as many of our externships last six weeks; but the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART) requires a 2,000 hour externship, as well as the successful completion of a Registry exam before licensure.^

Johnnie’s previous career fell victim to the digital photo revolution; no-one is using camera film anymore.

“I worked as a District Manager in retail photo finishing for 18 years. My career path just kind of disappeared because people don’t make pictures like they used to. It was all about processing film and developing prints – and people just don’t do that anymore.”

After working for a further two and a half years in retail, Johnnie decided he needed a change. It was a family friend who first suggested he consider a career in health care.

“Until the photo-finishing went away, I honestly thought I would retire from that industry. Its demise came much quicker than a lot of us thought it would. My wife, Vernie, kept suggesting that I become a nurse like her best friend, but being a nurse really didn’t appeal to me.

Vernie’s friend has known me for 30 years, and when we started talking about options, she seemed to think that I have the right personality to be a Rad Tech [Radiological Technologist] because I put people at ease. We talked about it some more and I started looking into going back to school about two years ago.”

At the time Johnnie didn’t really know anything about Medical Radiography or Carrington College, but as is sensible when making a life-changing decision, he put in a lot of effort to make the right choice.

“I spent a good seven months researching the different options. I considered a few different health care careers because of the good growth projected over the next 10 to 15 years. I looked at a couple of community colleges as well as Carrington, but with all the pre-requisites needed for the community colleges, I wouldn’t have graduated and got licensed until 2016 had I gone that route.”

The result of all that research meant that Johnnie was pretty certain of the direction he wanted to take before he even came to the Spokane campus.

“Honestly I’d pretty much decided on Medical Radiography before I got to the campus for the tour. After taking the tour I decided that Carrington, with its accelerated program, was the best way for ‘an old guy’, if you will, to get it done and into the workforce quickly. It will save me two years. I will graduate after my externship is completed in September 2014.” 

Johnnie is excited to start his clinical externship next month; mainly because it’s a great milestone on his way towards graduation and his new career, but there’s also a more practical, short term reason.   

“I live in Ephrata, which is more than two hours from the Spokane campus. The externship site is only 20 minutes from my home which is perfect! I’m looking forward to regularly sleeping in my own bed again!

Right now I leave home on Monday and stay in Spokane through Friday; an old friend of mine rents me a room for $50 a week. It means I can focus on school during the week in a pretty comfortable environment. I drive home after class on Friday.”

Johnnie and his wife Vernie have been married for 28½ years; they have two sons. One is grown and out of the house, and the youngest is 16. Johnnie is quick to admit that he could not have made this career change without the love and support of his wife.

“Vernie has been so supportive of me – this whole thing was actually her idea. She said she would take on a second job to keep us afloat while I go to school for two years. That’s how this all started. She told me that if I’m going to start a new career, I need some new smarts! I’m super proud of her for doing everything to keep us going while we’re doing this.”

One of the most valuable things that he’s discovered at Carrington is that he has the capacity to learn.

“Having never gone to college before I’ve found out that I can actually sit in a classroom, listen to a lecture, read a book and learn stuff! Everything I’d done in my previous careers had been hands-on training. Yes, Carrington has the equipment and facilities to allow us to do a lot of hands-on work, but there is still a lot of theory to learn too.

It was fascinating for me to find myself in a college classroom environment. It was 34 years between leaving high school and going to college – I joke that I just took a little time off ‘to find myself!’ “

Although he freely admits to being nervous when he enrolled at Carrington, Johnnie has no regrets.

“I’m the oldest guy in our class of 13; I’m in class with an 18-year old, so yes I was very intimidated. Would I be able to keep up? Will I know how to study?  It turns out, I’m doing OK! Honestly it’s been terrific; I’ve found a passion for the industry of Medical Radiography that I never dreamed I would have!

I’ve very much enjoyed my time at Carrington. All the teachers in the program are licensed techs who have been out in the field; one of them has been licensed for almost 40 years and he has a tremendous wealth of knowledge that he shares with us.”

The Medical Radiography program in Spokane has certainly matched Johnnie’s expectations for the education he’s receiving, but there is one thing that has surprised him.

“You have to be ready to work. My expectation of how much studying I would need to do, and how much homework I would have, was way off. There’s been much more than I thought there would be. I wasn’t prepared for two to three hours of homework a day, but I’ve gotten used to it now. I guess I hadn’t really equated the fact in my mind that an accelerated program means the same amount of work, but in a shorter period of time! It’s all part of the accelerated process.”

If you’re considering the Medical Radiography program, don’t be put off! The important thing is that, even though it’s been much tougher than anticipated, Johnnie has coped very well – with all As and Bs so far!

When it comes to the future, Johnnie is fully focused on the next 12-14 months or so, but he has some thoughts as to where he’d like his new career to take him.

“I fully expect to go through the clinical, then pass the AART Registry exam and get licensed. I don’t see any issues with that in the next 12 months or so. I don’t know what jobs will be available in the immediate area when I get licensed, but I know there will be jobs.

What looks most interesting to me right now is angiography or orthopedics, working in a surgical environment. But it’s all still theory as I haven’t been in an operating room yet, or been involved in those procedures. I’ll know more after I get into the clinical site. I do know that I want to continue to build my qualifications and skills, like adding CT and MRI certification and licenses.”

Good luck with starting your externship next month Johnnie and enjoy sleeping in your own bed!

^Carrington College prepares students to take appropriate certification and licensure exams related to their individual majors. The College does not guarantee students will successfully pass these exams or be certified or licensed as a result of completing the program.

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