For Geanette Parker, the Pandemic Proved to be a Blessing In Disguise. How She Used 2020 to Create a Better Future
2020 was an unnerving, uniquely challenging year for everyone. But for Geanette Parker, a recent graduate of the Medical Billing and Coding certificate program at Carrington College in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the events of 2020 also proved to be a blessing in disguise.
Last February, after working as a Business Office Manager at an inpatient behavioral health hospital for three and half years, Geanette lost her job. By June, she had enrolled in Carrington’s Medical Billing and Coding program. Less than nine months later, armed with new skills and a 4.0 GPA, she landed a new job before she had even graduated.
We talked with Geanette to learn more about how she created a “silver lining” during one of the most intense, unpredictable years of her life.
What motivated you to apply for the Medical Billing and Coding program?
I’ve worked in the medical field for 25 years. I started off as a certified nursing assistant, then worked as an emergency medical technician and a medical liaison. Medical Billing and Coding has always been a skillset I wanted to acquire, but I never felt I had the time to do it well. When you’re working full time, committing to a full-time college program is tough.
But when I lost my job last February, new opportunities presented themselves. I was able to collect unemployment and I also qualified for the New Mexico Workforce Program, which offers grants to help retrain employees. That program covered the cost of my Carrington education, so it felt like the perfect time make myself more employable once life started returning to normal.
Why did you choose Carrington?
I had heard about Carrington through local TV commercials. I really wanted to do something productive during the pandemic, so I checked out the Carrington website. I decided that returning to school when I wasn’t likely to find a job anyway made a lot of sense.
The Medical Billing and Coding program is normally taught in person. What was it like to do your entire program remotely?
I’m a real ‘people person’, so there were times it was frustrating to look at faces on my computer screen rather than actally being in a room with other people. But considering all the limitations we were facing at the time, I was just so grateful to have that online connection and relationship with my instructor and the other students. Online learning requires a degree of structure and self-discipline. Just like in a traditional classroom environment, you have days and times you’re expected to be in class. Homework and project assignments still have deadlines. But once you get into a groove, it’s like any other commitment. You adapt and get it done.
Were you able to develop a connection with the other students, despite the pandemic?
Definitely! Even though we were each isolated, we soon realized we were alone together. Some of my classmates live in rural areas and never saw other people for months. Being able to focus on something productive and to share the experience, even remotely, was a real blessing that brought our class closer together.
You’re older than most of your classmates. What was that experience like for you?
I’m a happy, healthy 60 years old. Most of my classmates were in their twenties, so at first I felt like the class grandma. But I soon realized that I brought something to the classroom they didn’t have: experience. I’ve always believed that experience is the best teacher. There were many times in class when our instructor asked me to share my real-life on-the-job perspective. I love helping other people. Being able to share my experience gave me an added sense of purpose.
What’s the best advice you shared with your classmates?
Having worked at one job or another since I was 12 years old, I know that projecting a sense of self-confidence is essential. First impressions are lasting impressions. Going into an interview prepared to impress a potential employer with your experience, energy, and enthusiasm is always a winning strategy.
How soon after you completed your program did you land your new job?
Believe it or not, I was hired three weeks before I graduated! I started my new position as Business Office Manager at Genesis Health in Albuquerque on February 8—exactly one year to the day from when I lost my last job. I graduated on February 26. Even though I hadn’t yet completed my program when I interviewed, I knew having that education and training on my resume would prove valuable—and it did. I’m now managing a team of four and am really enjoying it. And since I live only six minutes from the office, I love my commute, too!
What would you say to somehow who might be considering returning to school?
I would tell them that returning to school won’t always be easy and there may even be times when you’re tempted to give up—but don’t! Once you make the decision, commit fully and be open to asking for support when you need it. In the long run, education and professional training always pays off and is always worth the effort. My story is living proof!
You’re an ordained minister and were the pastor of a church in Baltimore for five years. Have you learned any lessons in faith over the past year?
The pandemic had definitely reinforced my belief that it’s important to be open to whatever blessings come your way, even during the most challenging times—and to always be prepared to make the most of them!