Tiffany always envisioned working in healthcare and felt on track to make her dreams a reality when she started nursing school at Eastern Mennonite University. Then, she had to take a break from school: in her own words, life got in the way. As a single mom with two toddlers, Tiffany needed a flexible, affordable program that allowed her to be with family while taking classes.
During her time away from nursing school, Tiffany began to worry whether she had a future in healthcare. Not ready to give up, she investigated alternate pathways into the field while working as an administrative assistant at a staffing company. When Tiffany expressed interest in Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC)’s nursing program, BRCC’s dedicated team told her about FastForward and suggested she may be the perfect match for its medical assistant program.
A new entry into the field
Studying to be a medical assistant turned out to be the perfect next step. With FastForward, Tiffany earned her credential in just eight weeks and quickly landed a new job at a family medicine clinic. As a medical assistant, she worked one-on-one with a nurse practitioner, assisting with administrative and clinical tasks.
“I took this opportunity to better myself and provide better opportunities for my children,” Tiffany said. “I’m still able to work in healthcare and do many of the same things that a registered nurse does.”
While Tiffany loves her job, becoming a nurse is still on the horizon, and she’ll return to nursing school at Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC) this fall. PVCC’s evening nursing courses and proximity to Tiffany’s job mean she can keep working while she studies.
Real-life learning with impactful professors
One of Tiffany’s favorite aspects of BRCC’s program was the practical, hands-on learning experiences. In class, Tiffany practiced drawing blood, taking vital signs, performing injections and using electrocardiograms (EKGs). She and her classmates worked in pairs to replicate the dynamic between medical assistants and their patients.
“Everything that we did in class is what you do day-to-day in a family medicine office,” Tiffany said. “In healthcare, you have to have hands-on learning, or you’re not going to thrive. I wouldn’t have been prepared when I started here without my experiences [at BRCC].”
During her time at BRCC, Tiffany found a mentor in her professor, Melissa. If Tiffany ever doubted herself or her future in medicine, Melissa provided the reassurance and support she needed. Melissa reached out to Tiffany and encouraged her to apply to a job opening at Carilion Clinic, where Tiffany is currently employed, and the two women have kept in touch as Tiffany began her new career.
“At one point [in the program], I felt like giving up,” Tiffany said. “I was like, ‘This is just too much for me.’ Melissa was there to encourage me to keep going. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her. Even after our class, she’s kept checking on me every couple of months, asking how I’m doing. She encouraged me to go back to school to finish my nursing degree.”
Skills for success
When asked what advice she would give prospective FastForward students, Tiffany said top-notch time management is the key to success, especially in an intensive program like the medical assistant certification.
“I’m not going to say that time management wasn’t hard, because it was,” Tiffany said. “It’s possible, though. Getting a planner, mapping out deadlines and setting aside time to complete all your responsibilities is essential. Make sure you write everything down so nothing comes as a surprise.”
Are you interested in pursuing a career in healthcare but feel like your plate is too full to make it happen? FastForward offers convenient, low-cost and short-term credentials that are perfect for working adults. Learn more about FastForward’s healthcare programs here, or meet with a FastForward career coach today!