Alumni Spotlight – Meet Sandy Cisneros

Sandy Cisneros, a mom of five children, recently completed the Medical Assisting program at Carrington College in Portland, OR. Prior to going back to school, Sandy had worked for a corporate bank for five years, but a couple of years ago she decided the time was right to make a change in her career. I spoke with Sandy in February.

Thanks for your time Sandy. Why did you decide to leave the bank?

I’d just had just had my fourth baby, so the time was right to leave. I worked in fraud and home equity processing – things like that. Even though the money was good, I’d started to notice how people who’d been at the bank longer than me complained about the job, or the benefits. I didn’t want to become one of those people. So I took some time at home with my baby, and then went back to school to retrain.

Why did you decide on the medical field?

I wanted to work in health care when I was younger, but I’d always doubted myself. I’d told myself I wouldn’t be smart enough to get good grades. I was scared; I was holding myself back, and always talked myself out of it. Would I be able to deal with the medical terms? Would I be able to give injections?

What changed your mind?

It changed when the bank started to let people go; there was a good chance my job would go overseas. I wanted a job that I wouldn’t be scared of losing to another country. I’d seen some of my friends go back to school, and I thought if they can do it, then I’m sure I can.

You first chose a Medical Billing & Coding program.

Yes, at first I wasn’t sure about certain hands-on aspects of a patient-focused job like medical assistant. I’m really good with computers, so I thought Medical Billing and Coding would be the best career choice for me, but I was wrong. I wasn’t going to get any face-to-face time with people. That’s what I’d been doing at the bank, and I wanted to get away from that. That’s when I decided to go in a different direction, and I switched to a Medical Assisting program.

You started at Anthem College before you transferred to Carrington. Tell me about that.

Yes. I’d been going to Anthem, but while I was on maternity leave with my fifth baby, the school closed. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but then Carrington reached out. They took me and the other students under their wing so to speak. I was really happy that I didn’t have to start the Medical Assisting program all over again somewhere else. Everything worked out great, and I have no complaints about Carrington at all.

Congratulations on your graduation. Third time’s the charm I understand?

Yes it was. I first started at Anthem in 2012, but I was having daycare issues because of my work, and I wasn’t 100% committed to school. I quit after just two classes, I didn’t think I could do it anymore. Then I talked myself into going back. Then after another month of classes I dropped out again. I think I was just too scared; I didn’t give myself enough credit that I could do it. The third time, I told myself “I’m pregnant I have to get this done.” I couldn’t give up again.

So how quickly did you find a job?

I did my externship at an OBGYN clinic in Portland. They were fantastic, they showed me everything. They gave me positive feedback, and told me I was very motivated. Unfortunately they didn’t have an open spot that I could apply for at the time. I’ve stayed in touch with the manager there, that’s how close we got. But then, just after my externship finished in early January, a friend called to tell me that they were hiring at the family practice where she was working. I interviewed and got the job in mid January. I’m in my third week of training now.

What are your career plans?

I enjoyed my time at the OBGYN clinic, but I’m really enjoying the challenge of family practice. I think I’m where I want to be. They’re paying me well, it’s more challenging and I get to do more of the things I was trained to do. I don’t have any ambitions to be a nurse or anything, although I would like to be the head medical assistant one day.

So you think you’ll stay where you are for a while?

It’s funny you should ask that. I’d always wanted to work in OBGYN, but now that I’m in family practice I kind of like it. I’m enjoying it where I am, but the supervisor at the OBGYN clinic just called me this week to say they’re hiring! They were asking for me by name which was a great feeling. The problem is they require their employees to have the state certification, and I don’t have mine yet.* But they told me to stay in touch, and to reach out whenever I want to change career paths. That’s a great thing for me to know for the future, and a great incentive to complete my state certification.

So you don’t have that state certification yet?

Not yet; I’m studying for my exam at the moment.* I hope to take it in the next couple of months as being certified may give me more employment options in the future. The clinic I’m working at now doesn’t require that medical assistants be state certified, just that we have a college qualification like the Certificate I earned at Carrington. I get really nervous for exams, test anxiety I guess you call it. But I do want to take on that challenge; I want to give it a shot.

What’s the most valuable thing you learned about yourself at Carrington?

I learned that I don’t give myself enough credit. The doctors even told me that during my externship, when they would tell me that I was doing an awesome job! I think the problem is that I always second guess myself. Only really in school or work situations though; I guess I’ve doubted my own intelligence.

Tell me about your family?

My spouse and I have been together for 9 years and he’s been very supportive of me during my time at school. I have five children; my eldest is 15 and my youngest is 5 months. My baby boy was born in September, so I was pregnant through most of my time at Carrington.

What do you enjoy when you do find time for yourself?

I enjoy going out to eat and watching movies – date nights. My fifteen year old watches the babies when we go out. She’s really responsible for her age, and she was really supportive of me going back to school as well. She didn’t want me to give up again, as she saw how I gave up twice before. She put in a lot of effort helping me with the baby while I was at school. I hope I’ve set a good example for her by persevering and finishing school. She wants to do something in the medical field too or maybe become a criminal analyst.

* Carrington College prepares students to take appropriate certification and licensure exams related to their individual majors. The College does not guarantee students will successfully pass these exams or be certified or licensed as a result of completing the program.

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