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Returning to the Classroom After 29 Years, Portland Medical Assisting Student Rhonda Baker Becomes Third Family Member to Enroll at Carrington

July 12, 2022

Rhonda Baker and DaughterWhen Rhonda Baker walked on to Carrington’s Portland, Oregon campus in March to begin her first day of classes in the Medical Assisting program, she already knew a lot more about the college—and the program—than most students who enroll.  

That’s because her two children—18-year-old Finn and 21-year-old Jamie—were already attending programs on the Portland campus. Finn recently completed his Pharmacy Technology program externship, while Jamie just finished her Medical Assisting classes and is currently doing her externship. 

“Seeing how well my kids did at Carrington—and how much they liked it—gave me a boost of confidence that came in really handy,” says Rhonda, 55. “Returning to school after being away for so many years was intimidating at first. But I knew if I followed the advice I’ve always given my kids—to believe in yourself, focus your energy, and work hard for what you want—I would succeed.”  

Rhonda is on track to graduate in September with her Medical Assisting certificate. We talked with her about the challenges of returning to school, why working in the medical field appeals to her, and what she hopes to do after earning her certificate. 

 

What motivated you to enroll in the Medical Assisting program? 

I’ve had a lifelong desire to be in the medical field. Five years ago, when I was 50, I seriously considered going to nursing school. I’d been an active volunteer at the school my kids attended, but my kids had grown and didn’t need me like they once did. I also missed working with patients and children as I did back when I was a lay midwife. But when I realized it would take anywhere from six to eight years to become a registered nurse, I had to reconsider my options. I’m hoping to retire when I’m 65, so going to school full-time until I was in my late fifties just didn’t feel like something I wanted to do. With my medical assisting certificate, I can be working as a medical assistant in a matter of months. 

 

You’ve worked in and around the medical field for a long time. What’s your background? 

I started off illustrating medical textbooks. I was also a lay midwife for 13 years and attended dozens of home births.  In Oregon back then, you did not need to be certified.  I did training at a school called Birthing Way and also did an apprenticeship. I retired from that work when my youngest was two years old, because you’re on call and expected to be available on 30 minutes’ notice for a month before and a month after the projected due date. I had a young family of my own, and it was a commitment I just couldn’t honor any longer. I happily retired from lay midwifery, became a stay-at-home mom, and continued working as a medical textbook illustrator.  

A few years ago, I took a job as a medical courier, delivering orthopedic surgery equipment and supplies to hospitals and surgery centers throughout Washington and Oregon. I was on the road a lot. It paid well, but I was feeling restless and bored. One day I realized I didn’t want to do that kind of work for the next 10 years, which led to the big question: ‘So what DO I want to do?’ The answer—working with people and caring for them in a medical environment—led me to check out Carrington’s Medical Assisting program.  

 

How would you describe your experience at Carrington? 

I’m really loving it! My decision to enroll has been a good one. I’ve found everyone to be welcoming and friendly. My instructors have been encouraging and helpful, and my fellow students have been great. I was afraid that I might be walking into a super-competitive environment, but everyone has been very open and collaborative.  

 

Do you think your experience as a lay midwife has given you an advantage as a Medical Assisting student? 

In some ways, I think it has. I’m familiar with many terms and procedures, but being a lay midwife and being a medical assistant are very different roles. When you’re a lay midwife, you’re on the front line. You literally have a life-or-death responsibility. When you’re a medical assistant, you’re under the direction of other medical professionals who have more experience and responsibility. You’re following instructions and executing orders. At this point in my life, I’m happy to assume a more supporting role. 

 

How did it feel to return to the classroom after being out of school for many years? 

At first, I honestly questioned whether I could do it. Returning to school was terrifying because I wasn’t sure I even knew how to be a student. I knew that at my age, I wouldn’t realistically have the same bandwidth as I had when I was last in school.  

It was also a bit overwhelming to realize how much more technologically adept my younger classmates were. I knew I wasn’t in the same league at first. It’s a very different world today. I remember when AOL chat rooms were a thing! But everyone has been very patient with me and helpful in teaching me how to use the new technology. 

My instructors and classmates have been great, my husband is supportive, and my boss has been willing to work with me to create a schedule that makes sense for both of us. I feel very fortunate. 

 

When you complete your program, what would you like to do? 

I’d like to either work in pediatrics, women’s reproductive health, or in a facility that provides services to transgender patients. 

 

What would you say to someone who might be thinking about enrolling in a program at Carrington? 

I’d encourage them to make an appointment, visit the campus, take a tour, and ask plenty of questions. Talk with a career services advisor, to instructors, and to students. To me, it’s all about making sure it’s the right fit and that you understand what to expect. My son, my daughter and I have all had great experiences at Carrington. The education is specific and focused, and they really train and prepare you for the career you want. It’s been everything I was hoping it would be, so my advice would be to take the first step and see where it leads! 

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