Dental Assisting Student with Chronic Health Issues Pushes Past Obstacles and Excels

Carrington College Dental Assisting Student with her dogCaitlyn Nowka couldn’t be more excited about starting her new job as a Dental Assistant (DA) at Children’s Choice Dental this week. Not that long ago she was doing physically demanding cleaning work that was incompatible with her dreams and her chronic health issues. She needed and wanted something financially reliable that was less physically demanding and more emotionally fulfilling. She had already attended another college for nine years pursuing general education, trying to figure out what to do, but she says a learning disability with regard to math, combined with self-doubt, got in the way of her satisfying the degree requirements. It was time for a change!

She went to her local California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation where they referred her to their learning disabilities area. That’s where she overcame some reservations she had about a private college like Carrington and decided to learn more about it. It didn’t take long before she was moved to set up an appointment with an Enrollment Services Representative. She said, “I already knew I wanted to work in the dental field before I did housekeeping. It was in the back of my mind all the time.”

Caitlyn was able to meet with one of Carrington’s Enrollment Services Representatives who educated her on the Dental Assisting field and program, answered all her questions, and guided her through the application process. Then when the program started, she found that the hands-on approach that Carrington takes to teaching not only worked well for her learning style, but it also prepared her for time outside the classroom.

“The dental assisting program has a different way of teaching and I think that really helps. Each teacher has their own way of teaching. You get all these different views of knowledge and a range of different experiences in the hands-on labs. I loved that. That experience set me up for my externship,” she said.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Caitlyn faced adversity while getting her certificate when a seizure leads her to temporarily have her driver’s license suspended for six months soon after starting the program. Thankfully, her family stepped in to support her by driving her an hour each way so she could get to her evening classes. She says that she couldn’t have done it without their support.

It also wasn’t always easy keeping up her day job of housekeeping while in school and being a mother to three.

“I totally look at the housekeeping thing as something that drove me to do this. The first few months when I was at Carrington and I was still housekeeping, and while I’d be scrubbing people’s toilets or struggling to go up and down people’s stairs, I’d be thinking, ‘You’re going to be done with this. It’s all worth it.’”

She finished her program at the end of March 2020 and started an externship that Richard in Career Services secured for her in mid-April at Rockland Modern Dentistry. The externship went well and they intended to hire her, but the coronavirus pandemic interfered when they had to lay off their existing employees. Furloughed employees must be hired back first, which could put off a job for Caitlyn indefinitely. So, Caitlyn reached out to Richard again, and he connected her with Aerotek Staffing. Aerotek connected her with her position at Children’s Choice Dental, where she starts this week.

Caitlyn’s determination in the face of adversity and her willingness to accept help from her community shows strength and has created a whole new world for her in less than a year.  “Looking back, I am so glad I am here and not there still! My family is doing really well. I can see the difference already. All of this work has been worth it.”

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