Q&A with Dental Assisting Student Daja Patterson
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am 24 years young and I grew up in the Bay area and then I moved to the Valley during the middle of my teenage years. I have been in Lathrop ever since.
When did you decide to pursue a career in dental assisting?
When I was younger, I had a traumatizing experience at the dentist and never wanted to go. But when I moved out here I went to an office in Tracy and I met this dental assistant—her name was Blossom—she helped reduce all the fears you could have with going to the dental office. I saw how she made people feel comfortable and happy. She was helping create smiles and I thought in the back of my head that was something I was interested in doing. She inspired me but I did a complete 360 and I went to school to do software engineering and got a bachelors in that. I decided that was not what I wanted to do. It really wasn’t making me happy. I just got rushed into choosing that path. I then transitioned after graduating and decided I want to do dental assisting. I decided to do it during the craziest time during a pandemic! But what is encouraging about going at this time is it shows that if you want something that bad, then nothing is going to stop you.
What motivated you to choose Carrington?
I had a couple of friends who told me about Carrington because I had no knowledge of which school to go to. They told me they had really great experiences there. They loved the instructors, they were really hands on. They would really explain everything the best for you to understand. I’m more of a hands-on learner than online, so I really went for it because they had graduated from there. I decided to take that chance and I’ve been happy ever since.
What was your favorite part of your program at Carrington?
I am such an introvert and I am terrified of being around large crowds, so I really liked that it made me get out of my comfort zone. I had to interact and speak with people. I had to do one-on-ones. I loved that because it made me uncomfortable enough that I was able to overcome that fear. At the same time, they reassured me that nothing bad is going to happen. They said, we are all here as a team to help one another. They understand that this can be very scary for some people going to a new school. It’s a very supportive environment. They let you know we are all there to help each other and we have that common goal.
Please tell me about the Pacific Dental Services scholarship and your experience winning it.
That is a scholarship that is awarded to dental assistants to financially help them start to prepare for their careers. I was told by my instructors that I should apply for it and that is something that I never would have done because it is terrifying and the fear of rejection is what scares me. But again, with them being very supportive and helpful, I applied for it, not thinking that I would get it because you are going against a bunch of other students. So, when I was awarded the main goal was to do a lot of volunteer work around the world, and that’s what really resonated with me. I really want to give back to communities.
What was the most challenging part of your program?
Doubting myself, being scared doing the clinical exams. Also, second guessing myself, thinking that I’m not going to be good enough—that I’m not going to be able to perform. I’ll have been practicing but when it’s time I have an actual patient, I’ll get a little nervous. But with the support of our instructors and our classmates, I will definitely say that’s what helped me get over those challenges. I’ve often been scared to ask questions and speak up but they never, ever made me feel that way when I did. They know people understand things differently, so they explain things in different ways. They also figure out the best way to help you understand.
Would you mind describing the leadership you provided to other students?
I felt scared when I first started because I didn’t know anyone. So, I took all of those feelings and emotions that I felt and everytime we would have a class come in, I would let those new students know ‘hey, I know how you feel, it can be a bit scary, but if ever you need any help with schoolwork, bookwork, labs, clinicals, anything—feel free to reach out so you don’t feel so alone. That way we can help each other. Maybe you can teach me something I don’t know and vice versa. We would have study sessions. We would have flash cards. We would go over getting ready for the test and our projects. It teaches you more social skills, which was kind of hard because of the pandemic and it helps in so many ways. It helped with conversations. Not too many people liked talking but it helped a lot with that.
What got you through the hard times?
I owe it to my parents, my father especially. If it weren’t for the sacrifices that both of my parents made, I would not be in this wonderful position and have these opportunities. I was very fortunate to have a supportive family. If it weren’t for the support of my parents and I must include my fiancé, I don’t know if I would have been strong enough.
Is there a Carrington instructor or staff member who you would like to acknowledge?
Mr. Miller was one of the humblest instructors I have ever had. Very patient. Very understanding. And he was very helpful. I’m not sure I could have completed the program without him because I was struggling in the beginning but he made himself available via email. He also would stay after class was over just to see if we weren’t sure of something. So, it’s really because of him that I feel confident in my work because he gave that extra time to help me.
Are you currently working?
I just had my interview and I am about to go for my working day interview, so I hope to be working very soon. Speaking in the future, I am going to say ‘yes’ so I can manifest that. So, yes!
How did Carrington prepare you for your career?
They prepared me for the real-life scenarios that can take place. It’s different when you are doing it online because you are just reading, but when we had the hands-on opportunities in the actual classroom, where we learned different potential scenarios and how to handle them, I think that’s what really helped me the most.
Do you have any advice for people interested in going into your field?
I don’t want to say it specifically for my field, but just any field. It’s never too late to start your new journey or career. It’s ok to change your field. The hardest part is starting. It doesn’t matter what age you are, just start!