From Fast Food Worker to Radiology Technician, Carrington College Spokane Graduate Makes a Career Shift
Kory Bainard was 24-years-old and working as the manager of a classic American fast food chain in her picturesque hometown of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho when it felt like time to make a change in her life. She had worked in the same restaurant since she was sixteen-years-old and ascended to manager at eighteen. Even though a lifetime career in fast food was possible and even fulfilling for some of her coworkers, it wasn’t what she wanted long-term. She had different dreams and aspirations for her career and life with her husband. And although they both loved Coeur d’Alene and its gorgeous location, they wanted to settle a bit closer to an international city like Seattle, Washington or Portland, Oregon. It was time for a new adventure.
Moms often know best—so when Kory said she was ready to choose a career, her mom encouraged her to look into healthcare. Kory looked and found that she liked the idea of taking medical images to help doctors diagnose patients. Becoming an ultrasound technician was the first thing that interested her but she couldn’t find an academic program that she liked. Then, she learned about Carrington College’s campus in nearby Spokane, Washington. (Spokane is pronounced “spoh-KAN” and is named after an American Indian tribe that resides in the area.)
“I knew about Carrington from my friend and I thought maybe I will see what they have available,” she said.
Carrington’s two year Associate of Science in Medical Radiography program piqued her interest, and after talking with a representative at the school she felt like it would be a great fit. She applied and was quickly accepted. Kory started her program in October 2018. The first year of Kory’s program took place at the Carrington College campus in Spokane. Coeur d’Alene and Spokane are cities in different states but adjacent and situated so close that they are measured using combined statistical areas.
Kory’s Medical Radiology class was focused and rigorous with less than eight students. Because of this, Kory and her classmates received individualized attention and never risked being left behind. They learned about anatomy, pathology, radiographic procedures, quality control, patient care, and proper positioning. The curriculum was didactic and thorough. If Kory needed extra help, she said that her instructors were always ready to take time to make sure she understood the subject matter. She was especially thankful for a teacher named Ben who took extra time with her.
After a year in the classroom, it was time for Kory to take what she had learned and apply it in the field for the clinical portion of her program. Initially, she and her husband were looking at places she could do her externship around Medford in Southern Oregon, but then an opportunity presented itself through Carrington at Mason General Hospital in Shelton, Washington. Shelton is a quaint town at the southwesternmost point of the Puget Sound in Washington.
The Puget Sound is a massive inlet and fjord system that starts at the Pacific Ocean and forms what is called the Salish Sea. Few locals refer to it by that name and most just call it “the Sound.” They might say, “I’m taking my boat out fishing on the Sound.”
Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Shelton, and many other towns and cities utilize ports along the Sound for recreation, trade, and commerce. Shelton is known for its old sawmill and famous shellfish farm that produces legendary oysters, mussels, clams, and the enormous geoduck (pronounced “gooey duck”) clam that grows over three feet long. Shelton also sits just a short drive south of the expansive Olympic National Park that stretches across nearly one million acres and includes a temperate rainforest that receives 100-140 inches of rain per year. There are more than 70 miles of coastline to explore in the park and beautiful ice-capped glaciers. Scientists, nature lovers, and adventurers of all types travel from around the world to study and admire it. If Kory and her husband seek adventure, they are now near a million acres that will always deliver.
They moved into an apartment nearby in the artsy capital city Olympia, where they will have more options for shopping and socializing than they would in Shelton. She wasn’t sure this would work at first because she said she “has so much driving anxiety.” Like many people, she has anxiety driving in congested and aggressive traffic. Olympia is only 61 miles from Seattle and located along Interstate 5, where traffic is notoriously terrible. Thankfully, Shelton is in the opposite direction of Seattle and the apartment her husband found eliminated her need to use I-5 whatsoever. She can just hop on one small highway and make her way to Shelton in 25-30 minutes without dealing with any major traffic issues. This was a major win and huge relief for Kory. What is admirable is she knew her limitations due to driving anxiety, modified her plans accordingly, and created a plan for her day-to-day life that she is comfortable with so she can succeed. She proved that it isn’t about being like everyone else, it is about finding your own way.
At Mason General Hospital, Kory was provided with a clinical educator who she said, “was in charge of making sure you are doing everything that you are supposed to be doing” and “they are the person who you report to for everything.”
The clinical educator communicated with Carrington’s clinical coordinator back in Spokane. Students are always under supervision. The clinical educator taught and communicated with her and other students who were there doing their externships. This helped streamline the educational experience. Kory also said that she was glad she had a full didactic year of learning before entering the hospital. She said that some schools teach incrementally, so students learn a portion of the material in the classroom and then go out in the field and apply that portion before going back to the classroom to learn the next portion. The info is learned and then applied in the field piece-by-piece. Kory is really glad she did the Carrington program with the full didactic year of hands-on classroom practice before entering the field because she thinks that provides better preparation “This program made me more prepared for what to expect. So the second year was just putting it into play. Everything that we learned we got to use,” she said.
When she got to Mason General, she was ready to apply what she had learned and practiced at Carrington over her first year. The hospital helped facilitate this by appointing a professional within radiology to teach and communicate with students like Kory who were there doing their on-the-job training hours. They set up opportunities for her to learn about and assist with x-ray, mammography, CT Scan, and MRI. She was especially impressed by the C-arm, which is an imaging scanner intensifier shaped like a C that glides over patients to capture fluoroscopic intraoperative imaging. While she was focused on the C-arm and learning, Mason General clearly was paying attention to her proficiency and professionalism because they offered her a job that she took as a Radiology Tech Aide in December 2019.
Of all the different modalities Kory learned, she was the most intrigued by CT Scans. “I definitely want to learn CT Scan,” she said. She sees how useful they are for everything from aneurysms to kidney stones and even broken bones. Before she moves on to learning them she wants to get more experience with X-rays. When she is ready to move forward, she is sure Mason General will provide her with opportunities to gain the experience that she needs to add that proficiency to her skillset.
In mid October 2020, Kory graduated on the Dean’s List from Carrington with a 3.99 GPA and passed her state licensing exam, which was a bit inconvenient to take due to COVID19. The closest testing location she could find that was open at the time was in the agricultural hub of Yakima, which is 3 hours away to the east. Instead, she scheduled the test for Spokane, which would add another 2 hours of eastward driving to her journey but also give her an opportunity to visit friends and family. She completed the test and received her preliminary results immediately. The final results came through the mail during the last week of the month. She passed and is a full-fledged registered Radiology Tech today. In just two years and with some hard work, Kory went from being the manager of a fast food restaurant in her hometown to becoming a member of the essential workforce and living in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. It sounds like her mom has some good advice.