For Medical Assisting Grad Brandon Williams, the ‘Pandemic Pause’ Presented an Unexpected Opportunity— and Led to a New Career
Timing is everything. And for some people, six months into an unpredictable global pandemic might have seemed like the worst possible time to make a major life change.
But for Brandon Williams, the timing couldn’t have felt more perfect.
“The hospitality business—food, beverage and event planning—was all I’d done since I graduated high school,” says Brandon, 35. “When I was in my early twenties and making great money as a bartender in Las Vegas, I didn’t think about the future. But when you’re approaching your mid-thirties and you’re one of millions of hospitality workers who suddenly finds himself unemployed, you think about your future a lot. The pandemic totally decimated my industry, and no one had a clue when things would return to normal. I was terrified.”
Rather than waiting it out, Brandon decided to be proactive and make big changes in his life and career. In September, 2020, he enrolled in the Medical Assisting certificate program at Carrington College’s Portland, Oregon campus. The Southern California native completed his six-week externship at an urgent care facility in May and just graduated—with a 4.0 GPA.
We talked with Brandon about his decision to enroll at Carrington, his experience in the Medical Assisting program, and what his future holds.
How and why did you choose Carrington?
I have a friend who completed the Medical Assisting program. She told me how much she loved Carrington and the work she’s been doing since she graduated. She had nothing but great things to say, so Carrington was one of the two colleges I researched. Carrington was very interactive and responsive. The people who reached out were very friendly and they answered all of my questions. I applied at Carrington two days later, and within three weeks, I began my first class.
What about the program appealed to you?
I love the idea of helping people and being able to provide compassionate care to someone when they really need it.
How did your time at Carrington compare to what you expected?
It was the most intense, challenging, rewarding experience of my life. At first, I felt like I’d been thrown in the deep end. It was so overwhelming that one day I cried. But I quickly realized that everyone at Carrington wants to you succeed, and they really step up to guide and encourage you through the process. All of my instructors were phenomenal. They believed in me before I believed in myself. Before long, I adapted and got into the rhythm of the program. I wanted to prove to myself that I could excel, and pulling a 4.0 GPA in my first semester really helped boost my self-confidence. I worked hard to maintain my grade point average throughout the program—and I did!
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along the way?
I know that for so many people, nothing good has come from the pandemic. But for me, it definitely had a silver lining. It forced to slow down, reevaluate my life, take a hard look at my career, and ask myself some tough questions.
I soon discovered how one decision can totally change the direction of your life. I woke up one morning at 6:00 a.m. and just knew that was the day I was going to pursue a college program that would prepare me for a job in the medical field.
I also learned to stop underestimating myself and my abilities. I think it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and to start assuming that’s all life holds for us. I feel like I left the program as a very different person than when I started. Not only did I gain knowledge, I gained confidence. In my last semester, I found myself encouraging the new students because I could tell they were feeling as lost and intimidated as I did when I first started.
What obstacles did you experience along the way?
When I tested positive for COVID-19 in December, that could have become a major obstacle. Fortunately, I was lucky and never felt as bad as many people do. But because of my diagnosis, our class was taught remotely for two weeks, so I was grateful that I never fell behind.
To be totally honest, I think my biggest obstacle was a lack of self-confidence. I always excelled in any job I ever had in the hospitality and food and beverage and events planning business, but I questioned whether I was smart enough to succeed in the medical field. I’ve also never gone to college before, but it just seemed the right time to something new. I also knew that if I became a Medical Assistant, I’d never have to worry about being out of work again.
How did you end up doing your externship at an urgent care facility? That must have been stressful during the pandemic.
It was, but I really wanted to jump in and see what it was like. I requested an urgent care externship because I wanted to experience everything. I was doing everything from taking vital signs and drawing blood to performing PCR tests and administering vaccinations. I was surprised to discover how adaptable I can be. Toward the end of my externship, the urgent care clinic where I was working offered me a full-time job.
Did you accept the position?
I decided to pass because I didn’t want to play it safe and take the first offer that came along. The demand for Medical Assistants is high, and I’d really like to get some experience working in a hospital. I’ve already received two other job offers and I’m confident I’ll be working at a hospital here in Portland very soon.
What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself in five years?
I want to continue progressing and growing in the medical field. I’m planning to return to school to earn my Associate of Science degree and become a licensed vocational nurse or registered nurse. I feel like the possibilities are endless. Completing the Medical Assisting program has launched me into a whole new world. It really ignited a passion—and reminded me that it’s never too late.