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Student Profiles

Certified Nursing Assistant Courses Are a Great Starting Point

Amanda Shirley

Certified Nursing Assistant courses through the Continuing Education Division offer students vital professional knowledge. The course is a first stop for many to test the waters to see if nursing is a good career fit. Many health care providers enroll in the program to obtain certification. Some students in the program are caretakers of relatives and enroll to increase their skills. Students in Durham Tech's Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) program are required to be a CNA prior to beginning the program. In fact, nursing students from other colleges often enroll in Durham Tech's CNA courses.

The Nurse Aide I program instructs students in basic nursing skills. This 165-hour training program includes lectures, labs, and rotations in a clinical setting. Upon completion of their studies, students are eligible to sit for a certification exam.

Durham Tech also offers a Nurse Aide II program for those with nursing experience who want to expand their patient-care skills. Students learn more advanced skills such as catheterizations, sterile dressings, and tracheostomy care in this program.

"I can understand why people like to take this course," said Amanda Shirley, who came to Durham Tech two years ago after working in retail for several years. Shirley had enjoyed a nursing vocational class in high school. She decided to pursue Associate Degree Nursing at Durham Tech because of the quality of the program, along wit the low cost.

"In the CNA program, you learn about taking blood pressure, temperature, how to help patients move around, how to feed and care for them," Shirley said. Both Nurse Aide I and II include clinical experience in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other agencies. "In the program you learn how to interact with patients an keep a positive attitude," Shirley said. "This is helpful for people who may not be entirely comfortable around those with dementia and Alzheimer's. It really is a wonderful entry-level course."

She was so impressed with the CNA course that she recommended it to an aunt who takes care of an elderly relative. Shirley, who enters the college's ADN program this fall, plans to become a nurse practitioner.

Medical Office Admin
From left, Sarah Grueller, Octavia Fitzpatrick, and Terri Godwin (seated) acquired the professional administrative skills to work in a medical office  

Medical Office Administration Program Provides On-the-Job Experience

Sarah Grueller, Octavia Fitzpatrick, and Terri Godwin are all at different stages of their lives. Grueller is single; Fitzpatrick has a young child; and Godwin, whose child is older, wanted a new career after operating a gym for many years. The three met in their Medical Office Administration courses at Durham Tech and have become fast friends. They have studied together, worked on projects together, and generally supported each other while pursuing Associate in Applied Science degrees. Student sin the Medical Office Administration program acquire skills and knowledge as a medical office professional. They become proficient in keyboarding, word processing, and communication. students take courses in medical legal issues, medical terminology, billing and coding, and medical transcriptions. Graduates work in the offices of allied health facilities, HMOs, insurance claim processors, laboratories, and manufacturers and suppliers of medical and hospital equipment.

Medical Office Administration program students had a new opportunity this year through a cooperative work experience at at Duke Medical Center clinics. Grueller, who worked in the Dermatology clinic, created spreadsheets for nurses and a patient database. She often checked in patients and helped manage charts and files. Godwin, who worked in both the Infusion and the Infectious Disease clinics, said her Durham Tech courses helped prepare her for work in both these clinics. "I didn't have a medical background, but I learned the terminology, how to type faster, and I sharpened my computer skills," she said. "I learned easier ways to do things on the computer. I was self-taught in accounting and learned a lot in my courses."

Fitzpatrick, who worked in the Morris clinic, said she was drawn to the medical field but had decided she did not want to become a nurse. The 320-hour co-op work experience has already paid off. All three have a firm foundation in Medical Office Administration, as well as a new local job network.

Follow-up with Terri Godwin, Spring 2014

After completing the required 320 hours of work experience to obtain an Associate in Applied Science degree, Godwin was offered a full-time position in a clinical setting at Duke. Under the watchful eye of her supervisor, Godwin rose through the ranks to her current position of service access manager at the Duke Primary Care Durham Pediatric Clinic on North Duke Street. She, in turn, has kept in contact with Durham Tech, reaching out to Charlene West, associate dean and department head of Business, Education, and Information Technologies. West introduced her to Micara Lewis, department chair for Business and Information Technologies and coordinator of co-operative education programs, who helps Godwin recruit current Durham Tech students as co-op workers for her program. “I’m familiar with what’s necessary to help the students succeed, and I appreciate the quality of students that Durham Tech provides,” Godwin says with a knowing smile.

Elizabeth “Liz” Devine is an outstanding example of the caliber of students Godwin expects the college to produce. Devine benefited from a new program funded by a grant from Wells-Fargo, which provides stipends to support students as they complete their 320 co-op hours. With Wells-Fargo’s funding supporting her, Devine’s internship gave her a chance to prove her value to Duke. The result: an offer of full-time employment that begins immediately – and allows her to finish the coursework needed to earn her degree.

Godwin says, “The faculty at Durham Tech was always so supportive and I will be forever grateful for my experience there.” Devine agrees, adding “Without my co-op experience, I would never have been able to get my job as patient services associate. Many schools don’t offer a co-op program, and as a result students often graduate with no experience their fields of study.” After completing her Medical Office Administration degree in May, Devine plans to finish her Office Administration degree by the end of this year.

According to West, when students are able to apply what they learn in the classroom into real-world situations, they gain confidence in their abilities to perform independently, becoming valuable additions to their employers. West adds that many alumni continue to pay their experience at Durham Tech forward, saying “We have past graduates remember their experiences at the college and look for ways to be of assistance. Many of them volunteer as supervisors at their workplaces, allowing students to complete their work-based learning requirement. It’s really nice to see the cycle continue under its own momentum.”

Couple See Eye to Eye on New Careers in Opticianry

OpticianryAfter 25 years in the telecommunications industry working in cable, Terry Harris though he was set until retirement. "With wireless replacing cable, you could see the industry changing. But I didn't think it would hit before my career was over," he recalled. It did. Harris, then 47, weighed his options. He though about looking for a new job, but he didn't know what else he could do. In the end, he decided to go to Durham Tech and train for an entirely new career as an optician. The program appealed to him and the fact that it is a high-demand field made it even better. In fact, his wife Joan decided to enroll as well.

"I had stayed at home with kids for 20 years," she said. "With Terry's situation, I started to apply for jobs. I got a job in a vision center that I really liked." Her supervisor encouraged her to pursue the profession and enroll in Durham Tech's Opticianry program.

As it turned out, Joan and Terry Harris both entered the five-semester program in 2003. The program is online, making it convenient for busy adults. Students also come to the campus for labs one day a month.

The program trains opticians to create eyeglasses from eye doctors' lens prescriptions. They cut the lenses to fit an eyeglass frame and adjust the finished glasses to fit the customer. Students learn how to block, polish, and inspect both plastic and glass single-vision and multi-focal lenses. They become proficient at beveling, chemical tempering, tinting, and mounting lenses They learn to measure, adapt, and fit both eyeglasses and contact lenses to patients.

A valuable aspect of the program is the student practicum during the fifth semester. Students obtain real-life experience in adjusting and repairing eyeglasses at medical centers, retail optical shops, senior citizen centers, and convalescent centers in the area.

"If this program was not online, I couldn't have done it," said Terry, who was able to continue his job during the day and complete the program by working a couple of hours at night." He said he's boss allowed for flextime for his lab work. Terry believes the program can fit into the schedule of most working people.

Both Joan and Terry said students must be motivated and cannot fall behind. "The teachers are awesome," said Terry. "They really want you to succeed."

Students completing the Opticianry program receive an Associate in Applied Science Degree and are eligible to take the N.C. State Board of Opticians exam. An Optical Apprentice Certificate is also available. The program is accredited by the Commission on Opticianry Accreditation and approved by the N.C. Board of Opticians.

How did the store end? Quite well. Today Joan is a licensed optician at a Raleigh Wal-Mart store and Terry is district manager of Wal-Mart's Optical Division in Eastern North Carolina.

Longtime Customer Service Supervisor Makes Mid-Life Career Change

Imagine this . . . say you've worked for the same company for 20 years. Then one day, you're laid off. Unfortunately the scenario is common these days. When Teresa Holder received the news that her job was ending, she had the opportunity to move with the company to another locale. Instead, she studied her options.

Heather McKay"I decided to begin a second career," said Holder, a long-time customer service supervisor. While helping her elderly mother negotiate medical needs, she though she might like to help other patients in some way. "I saw room for improvement," she said.

After learning about Durham Tech's new Medical Assisting program, she enrolled in its first class last fall. Medical assistants are the next big thing in the medical field. These multi-skilled health care professionals perform administrative, clinical, and laboratory procedures. Graduates of the Medical Assisting program find employment in physicians' offices, HMO's, heath departments, and hospital clinics. In many situations, medical assistants serve as liaisons between patients and physicians. "You're there for the patient. You get patients' questions answered," said Holder.

Course work includes instruction in scheduling appointments, coding and processing insurance accounts, billing, collections, medical transcription, and computer operations. Students learn to assist with examinations and treatments, perform routine laboratory and electrocardiography procedures, supervise medications, and learn about patient ethical and legal issues.

"I had no medical experience," Holder said. No matter. Students in the Medical Assisting program receive a strong foundation in anatomy and learn medical terminology.

Medical assistants' duties vary from taking blood, giving shots, administering pregnancy and hemoglobin tests to scheduling patient appointments. Durham Tech Medical Assisting students learn medical coding and insurance regulations.

"You are trained from the front desk to the laboratory," said Holder. The Medical Assisting program includes a real-life 10-week summer "externship" in area ambulatory care settings.

"One reason I entered the program was because medical professions are very important in the Triangle," said Holder. "Another reason is that I wanted to give back to people."

Classes in Medical Assisting are offered during the day and in the evening. Students may earn a diploma within a year.

Student Finds her Niche Working with Children

Vickcine GrantLike many young people, Vickcine Grant wasn't sure what she wanted to study in college. She enrolled in a couple of programs at Durham Tech before deciding on Early Childhood Education. "That was a really good fit," she said. The need for early care and education for preschool children remains in high demand.

Graduates of the Early Childhood Education program work in child care centers, kindergartens, child development centers, hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, museums, camps, and recreational center. They can also transfer to a four-year college or university. This program focuses on classroom learning, child growth and development, the physical and nutritional needs of children, their care and guidance, and communication with children and their parents.

"I liked all my courses and all the teachers," Grant said. One favorite course focused on creative activities for children. This course helped me become more creative and think of activities I could plan," she said. Another favorite course focused on exceptional children's needs. "The program has a practicum segment through which 3-to-5-year-olds from participating child care centers come to Durham Tech. "That was an excellent experience. I found I have a real passion for teaching children," she said. The practicum verified her skills with young children. In fact, while enrolled in the Early Childhood Education program, Grant worked full time at a child care center. Many of the Early Childhood Education courses are held during the evening, on weekends, and online to accommodate students who work in child care centers.

Grant received her Associate of Applied Science degree with honors and is planning to transfer to a nearby university. She hopes to be a director or owner of a child care center. Durham Tech helped Grant find a focus for her life. "If you put you mind to it, you can succeed," she says to others.

This program also offers the N.C. Early Childhood Credential course that is state mandated for lead teachers in child care and the N.C. Early Childhood Administrators credential for directors and administrators in child care. Certificate options are available in Child Care Administration and Management, Child Development, and Infant-Toddler Care.

Electrician Adds Spark to His Career Through Electrical/Electronics Program

Joshua Bumgarner, 30, worked for years with licensed electricians. Then he decided to take the next step and enroll in Durham Tech's Electrical/Electronics Technology program. The program, which has always offered a diploma and several certificates, now also has a new Associate of Applied Science degree.

Calvin Vaughan"I thought I'd be taking classes in which I'd know most everything. That's not how it is at all," he said. "We see stuff in class that some advanced professionals don't see for a long time." Bumgarner, who has done electrical work locally and as far away as Key West, always looks forward to the lively discussion in his classes. John Crutchfield, Electrical/Electronics Technology program director, introduces new material, such as the proper way to install relays and timers. "Then we have an open discussion," bumgarner said. Though he has been in the electrical profession, he amazed at how much he didn't know!

"At Durham Tech, you get much more than you pay for. Mr. Crutchfield could teach anywhere he wants to, but he chose to stay here."

In both the laboratory and classroom, students learn installation and maintenance of electrical wiring, transformers, AC and DC motors, motor control circuits, and lighting circuits. They become knowledgeable about instrumentation and programmable logic controllers. They also become proficient about the National Electrical Code.

After completing the new Associate in Applied Science degree, Bumgarner plans to transfer to a four-year college or university for a bachelor's degree. And one day, he may follow in his instructor's footsteps. "I'd love to teach electrical."

In addition to the new Associate of Applied Science degree, a diploma can be completed in three semesters during the day or in six semesters during the evening. Certificate options include Construction Electrician, Control Electrician, and Maintenance Electrician. The certificate options may be completed in the evening.

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