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Student Profiles

Christina HobgoodSurgical Technology Graduates Are Essential in the Operating Room
Christina Hobgood knows she is fortunate to look forward to her job each day. She feels particularly lucky to have found a perfect career fit after years of taking care of her children at home.

“I originally thought about nursing. Then I looked at Durham Tech’s Surgical Technology program,” she recalls. She’d always liked the intensity of operating rooms on TV. But real life? “I think I really loved the idea of patient contact and being a patient’s advocate,” she said.

As a Surgical Technology student, Hobgood loved learning about the body through her Anatomy and Physiology courses. She learned how to create and maintain sterile environments; how to prepare supplies, equipment, and instruments; how to prepare the operating room for surgery; and how to assist surgeons during operations. The more she learned, the more she realized the importance of her role on a surgical team.

Students gain on-the-job experience through clinical work at 11 sites, including UNC-Memorial Hospitals, Veterans Administration Hospital, Duke University Health System, as well as smaller health agencies. In fact, her clinical experiences helped Hobgood realize she prefers a smaller, quieter atmosphere. A month before she graduated last summer, Hobgood received a job offer from Dr. Gary Berger of Chapel Hill Surgical Center. Today much of her job entails assisting during tubal reversal procedures.

"We get to introduce ourselves to the patient," she said. "They meet the people who will be taking care of them during their procedure. Hopefully this will give them comfort."

Tammy Holden, director of Durham Tech’s Surgical Technology program, adds that successful employees have strong communication and organizational skills, are good critical thinkers, and possess tactile skills. The successful employee should also be in good physical condition and must be able to handle pressure. Graduates of the program are in high demand, she said.

Graduates of the three-semester day program receive a diploma and are eligible to apply to take the Surgical Technology certification exam given by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). Graduates of Durham Tech’s Surgical Technology program find employment in labor and delivery departments, inpatient and outpatient surgery centers, physicians’ offices, and central supply processing units.

For more information visit the Surgical Technology program pages,  attend an information session, or call 919-536-7233.

Shawn KingAssociate Degree Nursing Student Continues Family Tradition
Shawn King worked at difficult jobs through the years. He worked in his family’s property maintenance business, in restaurants, and in construction. None compare, however, with the challenge of his new career — nursing. “Nursing is emotionally and mentally challenging,” he said. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” It’s also the most rewarding.

King’s mother, Brenda, is a career nurse who recently retired. But it took King awhile to determine that nursing was a good career fit for him. He spent a couple of years taking various courses at Durham Tech. “Then I realized one day that I actually needed to get a degree," he laughs. He weighed career paths and decided on nursing. The high-demand field is known for job security, solid pay, and flexibility. Nursing has long been a female-dominated career; however, the number of males entering the profession steadily increases.

King applied to Durham Tech’s Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) program and began tackling his prerequisite courses while waiting to be accepted into this high-demand program.

King had lots of support from his instructors and fellow students. “You have your study group, and this is your team,” he said. “They're the ones you count on and who count on you. Laura, Kevin, Jen, Kristin, Bethany, Daniel, Megan, Deb, Kourtney, Marie . . . they were my team!”

His favorite parts of nursing school were the clinical rotations. He spent time in psychiatric, medical, surgical, cardiac, and oncology settings. He had opportunities to work at Duke University Medical Center, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

After graduating, the next step is to pass the NCLEX-RN that is required to become a registered nurse. King gathered some of his team in June to study routine worked; the team all passed. In fact, everyone in his graduating class who has taken the NCLEX-RN so far has passed. "I wish I could mention every single person in my graduating class, because I'm very proud of them and feel fortunate to have been in their company,” King said.

In August, King accepted a position as a nurse at the Veterans Affairs Community Living Center for Extended and Respite Care. “I feel like I was made for this job,” King said. “I know I’m really helping people who need me.” 

For more information visit the Associate Degree Nursing program pages,  attend an information session, or call 919-536-7233.

Debbie BakerMother of Three Finds a New Career in Health Information Technology
Debbie Baker worked as a computer programmer for 10 years before staying at home when her son was born. Then came twin girls, lots of volunteer work in preschool, PTA boards — even membership in the Mothers of Multiples Club. But when Baker faced a divorce in 2002, her life took a different direction. Eventually she decided to enter Durham Tech to retrain for a new career. After graduating from the Pharmacy Technology program, Baker entered the Health Information Technology program.

“Since I live in the City of Medicine, I knew there was a wealth of health information around me,” said Baker, who is pursuing the Comprehensive Coding diploma. “My hope is to find a career niche in which I can use my computer programming background, pharmacy knowledge, and my Health Information Technology knowledge,” Baker said. Health Information Technology is an excellent career path for those who are interested in medicine but prefer not to be on the frontline with patients. “I've been most comfortable working behind a desk,” Baker said. “I admire nurses, but I couldn’t be one.” Baker is completing her hands-on requirement for the program at Carolina Meadows in Chapel Hill. "I’ve been away 13 years from working in an office,” said Baker. “This has been a good way to get my feet wet again.”

The Comprehensive Coding diploma prepares students to analyze health records and abstract information and properly assign diagnostic, procedural, and supply codes in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Students learn about billing and reimbursement procedures, compliance issues, the evolving medical record, and legal and ethical issues. Graduates find employment in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, long-term care facilities, health insurance organizations, outpatient clinics, mental health facilities, home health organizations, and other agencies where coded data is used. Graduates are prepared for the entry-level national Baker plans on working in a health facility coding certification examinations. and may pursue the Health Information Technology associate degree while she works.

For more information about the Comprehensive Coding diploma, email westc@durhamtech.edu or call 919-536-7235, ext. 8159, or visit the Health Information Technology Program pages. 

Debbie HauserStudents Prepare for Careers as Compliance Officers and Environment, Health, and Safety Technicians
Like many employees today, Jaime Hauser was searching for ways to develop professionally and further her career skills. Hauser, an environmental scientist specializing in air quality at Eastern Research Group, Inc., was looking online for a public speaking class at Durham Tech. There she discovered the college’s Environment, Health, and Safety Technology program. The program focuses on occupational health and safety issues and prepares students for the important role of compliance officers in the industrial hygiene, research, health care, institutional facilities, occupational safety, and environmental technology fields. Students learn the regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Department of Transportation, all of which govern safety issues in work environments.

Hauser had already earned a bachelor’s degree in Meteorology from the University of North Carolina-Asheville and a second bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from N.C. State University. Did she really want to go back to college for a two-year Associate in Applied Science degree? “The time was right,” she said. The fact that most of the courses were offered online and the labs were offered on weekends or evenings appealed to her. Because of her previous college courses, she was able to skip the prerequisite courses such as chemistry and biology, which shortened the length of her completion time.

Once in the program, Hauser found that many of the students were just like her. They possessed environmental knowledge or health and safety skills but lacked a credential. Her first course, Industrial Hygiene, cemented her decision to pursue the associate degree. She was able to put much of the knowledge from her courses into use immediately by acquiring additional duties in her current position. Her favorite course was in Incident Management, which taught students how to contain toxic spills and leaks while ensuring the public’s safety. Students test their skills during a spill simulation.

Students may complete the Associate in Applied Science degree in six semesters. Certificate programs are also available in Environmental Management, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, and Occupational Health Management. For further information or questions, contact Patrick Coin at 919-536-7230, ext. 8059, or visit the Environment, Health, and Safety Technology program pages.

Megan WilkinsonGraduate Finds Her Calling in Public Service
“The instructors call you by your name,” says Megan Wilkinson, a Business Administration program graduate. Yes, individual attention was one of the reasons Wilkinson’s time at Durham Tech was not only educational but also enjoyable. Wilkinson initially entered Durham Tech to save costs on tuition. She then discovered there were many benefits. “The instructors really took the time to help you,” she said.

A Riverside High School graduate, Wilkinson began taking courses part time but later enrolled full time. In the Business Administration program, she enjoyed practical courses such as accounting, microeconomics, business law, and organizational behavior. During the business seminar, she created a detailed business plan.

The Business Administration program offers a broad spectrum to explore career opportunities, she said. Students acquire fundamental knowledge of business functions and processes as they study today’s global economy. Course work includes economics, management, and marketing. Students learn computer applications, communication, team-building, and decision-making. Business Administration graduates find employment in government agencies, financial institutions, and business and industry.

Wilkinson graduated from DTCC last May and began her job in the Civil Process division of the Durham Sheriff’s Office in August. No doubt about it, it’s a busy place. She handles subpoenas for witnesses to appear in court and issues writs of possession — the last step before eviction. She officially records property claims and the summons that deputies serve to the public. From divorce to child support to foreclosure, she records and keeps track of an array of official county records. All told, she may handle up to 6,000 official papers a month.

As frenetic as it sounds, Wilkinson enjoys her job and knows that it is important. “What I do is a service to the community,” she says. “I like dealing with the public.” Students may complete the Business Administration program during the day or evening. Day students may complete the program in five semesters. Evening students may complete the program in eight semesters. Students successfully completing the program earn an Associate in Applied Science degree.

For more information, call 919-536-7230, ext. 8080, or email darnellj@durhamtech.edu or visit the Business Administration program pages.

Kevin ThorpeKevin Thorpe Edits His CNC Program on a Centroid Control Panel
The phone rings regularly in Roy Stallings’ office. Often it’s an employer asking — sometimes begging — the Machining Technology program director for names of skilled machinists to hire. In a recent Manpower, Inc., survey, skilled machinists are the second hardest job to fill in the U.S., just behind engineers. “Machinists find jobs very quickly around here,” notes Stallings. 

Durham Tech’s Machining Technology curriculum prepares students to work in modern manufacturing facilities making mechanical parts on machines.The machines range from basic, manually-operated band saws to state-of-the-art computer numercial control (CNC) machines. Students learn how to read mechanical blueprints and computer-aided manufacturing software to program CNC milling and turning machines. Other course work includes basic machining applications, production procedures, math, English, and physics. Machinists work in manufacturing industries, public institutions, governmental agencies, and in a wide range of specialty machining job shops.

Kevin Thorpe loved his high school machining class at Durham Tech. “I was always good with my hands. I restored a Jeep when I was 16,” he said. “I was always taking over the garage for something.” After high school, he enrolled at a university; but it was not a good fit for him. He remembered how much he had enjoyed his DTCC Machining class and decided to enroll in the college’s Machining Technology program. “I liked everything in my courses and was never bored,” he said.

At Durham Tech, Thorpe received much individual attention. “Instructors watched what you did and helped you,” Thorpe said. He completed the three-semester course of study to earn a diploma. Today he works in N.C. State University’s College of Textiles machine shop creating parts from blueprints brought to him by professors in research and development. “I make their ideas work,” he quips. The work is creative though sometimes challenging, such as figuring out how to make a metal part that can tie a knot in a rope.

“You have to think of the best way to make the part work,” he said. Thorpe recommends the profession to those who are dexterous, enjoy hands-on work, and are creative. After receiving his Machining Technology diploma, Thorpe has returned to the college to obtain an Associate of Arts degree in General Education.

For more information call 919-536-7234, ext. 8145, or email stallingsr@durhamtech.edu, or visit the Machining Technology program pages.

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