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Training To Test, Check, And Monitor Health

31 August 2016 Written by  By Lorena Gonzalez

I am Program Director for the Clinical Medical Assistant program at Antioch’s Contra Costa Medical Career College (CCMCC).

The program trains students to perform blood draws, injections, ear lavages, eye exams, and EKGs. Most importantly, our students learn to take vitals, which are measurements of a person’s life signs including body temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and breathing rate.

Three times a week five volunteer teaching assistants (TA’s) help me with classes. One of them, in particular, Jeanine has been extremely helpful. Two associate instructors, Valonda Rogers and Nicole McCain, commit themselves 110 percent to the challenges and tasks of helping students succeed.

My interest in the medical field came early. I spent half my freshman year of high school in Moreno Valley while my mom cared for her sister during her final illness. Aunt Maggie died of cancer a month following the birth of her third child. We were by her side during those desperate final months and had first hand contact with the medical industry’s response to illness and disease, and in particular to the amazing influence that medical professionals exerted in the lives of their patients.

My main introduction to the power of Healthcare had come a decade earlier. When I was seven years old, my 8-year-old cousin died of Hodgkin’s disease. Mario and I had been good friends. I went to the hospital to see him during his final hours. Children were not allowed into the ICU, but one of the nurses understood what I was going through and permitted me to spend a few precious moments at Mario’s bedside. I held his hand and whispered in his ear. I think he knew who I was. At least he squeezed my hand.

The experience acquainted me with the fact that medical personal lack robot-like professional indifference to the pain and loss of others, even responding to the sadness of a young stranger. The nurse’s show of sympathy and kindness awakened something in my heart, and I could only dream of how wonderful it would be to have the effect on others that she had on me.

My role as head instructor at CCMCC has become a wonderful realization of that dream!

I was hired in April 2013 as assistant instructor for the evening class, which was a difficult transition because I was always a painfully shy person and as a child was always hiding behind my mom’s skirt. School was tough because I didn’t fit in with the rest of the girls in my classes, who seemed like social butterflies, flitting easily among their friends and acquaintances. I felt more like a tortoise, making my way through society with plodding and clumsy steps. Even as an adult, I carefully conducted my life within safe boundaries that excluded most of the world except for family. Members of my family are still baffled at how I can stand in front of a group of students and deliver a lesson. In fact, Mom has threated to sign up for a class so she could watch me do it.

The connections I made with the students helped me overcome my shyness. I realized how intimidating it would be to pretend that I knew everything and had all the answers. Instead, I get down on the students’ level and admit that I had the same issues with jobs, money, and family responsibilities some of them are going through. I adopt a “Let’s learn this stuff together,” attitude and work side-by-side with them as they master course content.

My professional concern and growing affection for each student also helped me come out of my shell. We become like family. We stay in touch after they have moved on. Some of them invite me to weddings and showers. They come back for visits, sometimes carrying babies.

I was raised in Daly City. My three younger sisters and I were raised by two amazing parents. As soon as I was able to be of any help, I went to work in my parents’ Latin Freeze Fruit Popsicle business in San Francisco’s Mission District. My efforts had serious overtones because my old fashioned Dad told me, “You are the oldest. If anything happens to me you must know how to go to work and support your three sisters.” After school I would catch the bus to BART, then walk to the store and help my parents and grandparents. The business was labor intensive and impressed me with a strong work ethic that I’ve carried with me to the present. I worked hard and prayed Dad wouldn’t drop dead leaving me to carry on the business in his absence.

When I was 17 I set out to follow my goal of becoming a medical professional by enrolling in a Regional Occupational Program (ROP) in San Mateo doing independent study during my senior year of high school. I graduated March 1994 and became a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). I turned 18 the same week and gave birth to Araceli the next month. I followed up with Acute Care certification for my CNA and eventually became certified as a medical assistant (MA) and then as a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN).

During the two decades before coming to CCMCC, I worked at a number of medical facilities including three in my Daly City hometown — St. Francis Convalescent Hospital, the Oncology Ward at Seton Medical Center, and Pedia Health Medical Group. I then took a position with Concord Health Center’s Planned Parenthood where I thoroughly enjoyed working with expecting moms in the reproductive health setting, and felt privileged to follow the progress from no belly, to belly, to baby. The miraculous process began by listening with a stethoscope to the early heartbeats and observing ultrasounds of the first fetal movements. After what seemed a remarkably short passage of time, the process culminated with the laughing baby that had amazingly developed from that fetus.

I spent two-and-a-half years at Planned Parenthood working with Jessica Gonzalez who was best friends with CCMCC’s founder, Stacy Orozco’s, sister-in-law. Jessica said CCMCC was looking for an instructor and thought that I would be a perfect fit.

They were right!

It is always rewarding to help my students achieve their dreams and to encourage them to move past the tough places when they feel like giving up. They know that I absolutely care that they succeed in my classroom and move on to the future of their dreams. All the members of the CCMCC team share my attitude. The owner Stacy Orozco hires instructors who are in this business to be midwives, helping students to give birth to their dreams, rather than merely working for a paycheck.

As a final personal note: I met Sergio Gonzalez September 16, 1996. We had our first child, Ariel, on the anniversary of that important meeting. In November 2003 we finally were married, making official what had been a reality for years. Adalee was born July 2005. In 2003 we bought our first home on a lovely court in Pittsburg. I enjoy watching our girls play in the yard. Sergio is an amazing husband, father, and provider. After two decades together, things are just getting better.


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