Grad Q&A with Dental Assisting Graduate Francis Flores
“I get a lot of anxiety. I especially hate having to ask people for help. But I knew I had to step out of my comfort zone to get anywhere. So I do things that scare me.”
When Francis Flores was ten years old, her father tragically died of a heart attack right before the by-pass surgery that had been approved for him. From an early age, Francis faced life understanding things don’t always go the way you want them to. Despite a deep anxiety inside herself, she learned to face the fear at each moment, and taught herself how to grow into the life she desired. Now she is focused on a career as a Dental Assistant – soon to be student of Dental Hygiene – a choice that fulfills her desire to be helpful to others, provides a warm and supportive working environment, and financial security. This is her story.
Tell me about yourself, where you’re from, your family, school, that kind of thing.
I’m 27 years old. I’m originally from New Rochelle, New York, where my mom still lives. When I was 17, my mom gave me permission to move to Idaho for my senior year in high school and live with my Dad’s younger brother, my aunt, and their two younger daughters.
What did you do after you graduated from high school in Idaho?
I went to an all-women’s college in Missouri. I decided I really wanted to study and pursue a career in psychology. While I was there, I worked in a shelter as a case manager. Then after college, I ended up moving to Arizona with a friend and practiced ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis ) therapy with autistic kids doing home therapy and school therapy.
These kids were really intense! I was teaching autistic kids how to control their emotions, and some even how to talk. I was thriving in the work, but the extreme behavior I was working with was taking a toll on me. I was feeling lonely, with no family around, and then COVID hit. My mom was still in New York and now she had a new family. It was so expensive back east, so I decided to move back to Idaho.
I had been in a long-distance relationship. I rekindled with an ex-boyfriend before the pandemic. We dated in middle school and he’s also from New York! We had stayed in touch. When the pandemic hit, he decided to fly out to Arizona and help me move to Boise. We drove 15 hours from Arizona to Idaho together. A few months after that, he decided to move out to Boise permanently. Now, he’s a police officer here.
How did you make it to Carrington College?
I checked out Carrington here in Boise and it offers so many different kinds of career education programs to choose from. I still wanted to work at something that helped others, and maybe something where I could use my therapeutic background in a different way. They were very helpful in talking over my values, my strengths, and interests to help me find a match. They recommended starting Dental Assisting. Then I could decide if I wanted to go further and pursue dental hygiene. I graduated from the Dental Assisting program last December and will start the Dental Hygiene program in six months.
That’s a pretty different field from psychology.
Yeah, I know it’s different. It was a scary decision. But I’ve always figured if something doesn’t scare you it might not at least be worth making the effort. The fear was part of the thrill because I had to believe I could do it, which made me stronger.
What was your favorite thing about Carrington?
My instructor. Her name is Anna Walton. She’s so bubbly and easy going. She really lets you try things yourself, which tested my capabilities right away. I had real trouble memorizing the teeth numbers; you know every tooth in your mouth has a specifically named number, so you’re recording the health of each tooth by its number. She saw I was anxious about memorizing the numbers and sent me a video to help me memorize them. Then she came into class an hour early to work with me (and she lives an hour away). She was really dedicated to helping me succeed.
How was your externship as a Dental Assistant?
I was very lucky to work at the dental office in Boise where I’ve always been a patient. I love my dentist and my hygienist and all the people that work there. They knew I was transitioning out of the psychology work I had been doing. I had this light bulb moment – to ask them if I could extern there and they said they’d love to have me.
What would you say to students who are like you and afraid of forgetting something during their externship or not doing the job well?
Oh yeah, I was still scared. I had to make myself believe I could do it; to sit in the dental assistant chair and be able to respond quickly and professionally. To keep asking questions until I was comfortable with everything. For the first two weeks, I asked the Dental Assistant if I could do every procedure with her in the room so I could be confident when I was alone with the patient in the room. I would say to them to ask a lot of questions; it pays to push through your fear.
And they eventually hired you as a full time Dental Assistant! Have you had a chance to tell your story to other students?
The Program Director of the Dental Assisting program asked me to speak to the past and incoming class to share my experiences. I was the first alumni as a part of this Carrington speaker program.
Congratulations on making a big transition and finding such rewarding work!