For Tavia Vicenti and her Father, Medical Assisting is a Family Affair
When 19-year-old Tavia Vicenti was working in the gift shop at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque six years ago, she knew she wouldn’t be there long.
What she didn’t know is that she’d eventually return in a very different role—as a Patient Care Technician in the hospital’s Inpatient Oncology Unit.
Tavia, now 25, was a stay-at-home mom to two sons—ages 1 and 2—last summer when she decided to apply to the Medical Assisting program at Carrington’s Albuquerque campus. In May, she completed the certificate program and passed the National Healthcareer Association Clinical Medical Assistant exam.
“I’ve wanted to work with cancer patients for a long time” says Tavia. “When I was nine years old, my 16-year-old brother, Camden, was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. His was treated at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale and our family moved there so we could all stay together. Fortunately, my brother is in remission, but that experience turned our family’s world upside down. I know firsthand what it’s like to love someone who is undergoing cancer treatment. I think that experience has helped make me more empathetic when I’m interacting with patients and their families.”
When Tavia decided to enroll at Carrington, she knew exactly what to expect because her father, Garry, completed the MA program back in 2011.
“A few years after my son’s cancer treatment, the company I was working for went bankrupt,” Garry recalls. “I had to decide whether to look for a job in Human Resources, which is what I’d been doing, or to shift gears and do something completely different. I’d spent a lot of time observing the people who provided my son with such great care, and I was pretty sure that was something I wanted to do for others. As it turns out, I made the right decision.”
Tavia, who was a high school student when her father earned his MA certificate, says seeing him complete the program helped inspire her to continue her own education.
“I teased my father that if he could do it, so could I,” she says. “When I started thinking seriously about enrolling, his support really made a big difference. He was able to answer all my questions and encourage me.”
Tavia says that while she and her father both work in the hospital’s Inpatient Oncology Unit, their paths seldom cross.
“People sometimes ask if it’s weird to see my dad at work, but it really isn’t,” she says. “We actually only see each other at the hospital a few times a week, and we make an effort to keep our work and home life separate. We have a sort of unspoken policy that we don’t bring our family life to work, and we don’t bring our work life home.”
Tavia was in the middle of her six-week externship at UNM Hospital during the intense early weeks of the coronavirus epidemic, but that didn’t dissuade her from applying for a full-time position as a Patient Care Technician.
“What I love most is interacting with the patients, and since there tighter restrictions on family visits and fewer patients, I had more opportunity to really connect with them,” Tavia recalls. “That experience reminded me why I enjoy this line of work so much—and why I want to do more of it.”
When Tavia found out she’d landed the job, she remembers feeling that she was where she was supposed to be.
“I feel very at home here,” she says. “Even back when I worked in the gift shop, there were doctors, nurses, and administrators here who encouraged me to get my education and come back to help care for patients. Having so many people believe in me has felt really good.”
Tavia’s current job responsibilities include monitoring a patient’s temperature, pulse, and blood pressure, as well as helping them shower, dress and stay ambulatory, as directed by doctors. She also handles a variety of administrative duties. Her plan is to work as a Patient Care Technician for a few years and then return to Carrington to continue her education.
“Completing my MA program was the first step,” Tavia says. “Enrolling in Carrington’s RN program will be my next step. I don’t know exactly when that’s going to happen, but I know it will.”