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When you enter college, you are expected to pick a subject of interest to study for the next four years. And the subject you choose to seek your undergraduate degree in will help prepare you for a specific career.
I don’t know about you, but at 18, I hesitated to invest my time (and money) into anything that didn’t set my soul on fire.
I hadn’t found an interest that fueled my purpose until I changed careers and fell in love with medicine.
Some people know they’ve wanted to be a doctor since childhood. On the other hand, I wanted to be a professional soccer player or model. As we all know… life never goes as planned!
Making teenagers decide what to do for the rest of their adult careers is ridiculous (IMO) and might be why 80% of students change their major at least once.
In this blog post, I explain my thought process as I went through four career transitions and share how I finally committed to pursuing medicine.
- The Best Premed Resources to Help You Succeed
- Why I’m Doing a Special Master’s Program Before Medical School
- What I Actually Did to Become a Patient Care Technician
I Changed Careers
Initially, I didn’t want to go to college, but I went because my friends were going, and it was my only escape route to move away from home.
I enrolled at a community college about 2 hours from my hometown and took the introductory courses for my associate’s degree.
It seemed like all my friends had educational and career aspirations, but I really didn’t. How could I pick a career if I didn’t know what I enjoyed doing?
In high school, my life was consumed by soccer and work, and I didn’t have much extra time to explore things that would help me decide on a college major.
It actually hadn’t even crossed my mind. I reflected on what I genuinely enjoyed throughout my first year of college.
One book I read encouraged me to redefine and create my own definition of success.
When you spend the time learning to understand yourself, you’ll be able to uncover a unique path that allows you to defy conventional wisdom and step into who you truly are.
I encourage those who are actively seeking what sets their soul on fire to learn more about what interests them and then go experience it.
My Morning Routine is a blog highlighting the morning routines of people with various careers.
This would be a great place to brainstorm ideas that spark your interest!
Crime Scene Technology
A couple of years into college and a few classes away from attaining my associate’s degree, I had an epiphany…
What if I merged my love for photography and interest in forensics? I loved crime scene shows and took photos of my friends with my Nikon DSLR for fun on the weekends.
After extensive research, I found a crime scene technology program a little over an hour away. My roommate came with me to visit the school, and I was sold on the program.
I picked up my things, moved away from my friends, and started over in a new city.
I transferred from the restaurant I had been working as a hostess to the restaurant in the new city (it’s a franchise).
After settling in the new city, I enrolled in acting classes. Having a creative outlet has always been a high priority for me, and acting has always been a childhood interest of mine.
I thought, what better time to try something new than now?!
When I was younger, I had always enjoyed theatre and had joined a talent agency.
However, I never had the opportunity to attend casting calls or photo shoots because of my rigorous soccer schedule.
I had to choose between acting/modeling or soccer, and of course, I had picked soccer.
Every Friday night, I went to acting classes while working as a hostess and being a student. I auditioned for acting roles and even obtained a couple of acting credits.
Several months before graduating with my A.S. in crime scene technology, I made a decision that was the worst mistake of my life.
I will not disclose what happened for various reasons, but it was a pivotal moment that changed my direction and perspective entirely.
Due to this offense, the forensic photographer internship I had lined up after graduation was revoked.
Consequently, I moved back in with my parents at 22 and began to piece myself together.
Corporate Flight Attending
I continued acting classes when I moved back home and did a few promotional modeling jobs.
One day, while searching for jobs, I stumbled across the description of a corporate flight attendant.
Corporate flight attendants work on non-commercial aircraft (private jet) and are responsible for catering food, greeting passengers, serving drinks, and enforcing safety guidelines.
Essentially, you’re hosting a dinner party at 45,000 feet, and your guests expect nothing less than an exquisite dining experience while traveling in style.
My background working as a hostess had many similarities to this job, so I was intrigued!
When I become fascinated by something, I dive into the abyss of the internet and research that topic for days.
After reading about this career field diligently, I changed careers and signed up for a 4-day corporate flight attendant program.
After getting certified, I drove to every airport within a 60-mile radius and handed them my cover letter and resume.
Additionally, I signed up on freelance aviation websites and applied for positions online.
I got hired at the private airport in my hometown. I was SO happy! I was 23 and just signed a contract with an excellent starting salary.
Little did I know I would have to encounter the red flag with every background check. The contract I had just signed as a new private jet flight attendant was revoked.
With this offense, I would require a work visa to fly into some countries. Work visas are expensive and take time to process.
Nonetheless, I persisted and tried to land some freelancing gigs.
Not only was it the slow season for the aviation industry, but I was a newbie and unlikely to get hired over those with more experience.
The odds weren’t in my favor… I panicked. Was the flight attendant program I did a waste?
Time passed, and I needed to make money, so I found another job.
My next title? Corporate executive recruiter.
I began working for a start-up marketing company, making a decent income and feeling like an adult working 9–6 pm Monday-Friday.
However, office jobs are mundane, and I was unhappy after several months of sitting in a cubicle for 40 hours a week.
While working this job, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at 23 years old. Unhappy with my health and overall life choices, I knew something needed to change.
This diagnosis led me down a path to healing myself from the inside out and learning about the gut-brain connection. Part of this healing process included reading books.
One book, in particular, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr. Murphy, explained the power of our thoughts and how we can utilize our minds to regain control of our lives.
Being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis ignited an interest in the sciences. I always wanted to return to school and seek a bachelor’s degree.
I realized I didn’t want to be limited in my career because of my education or stuck in a job I didn’t enjoy. So, I quit my marketing position and enrolled in a bachelor of science program.
Going Back to School at 24
Going back to school was a huge investment in my time and money, and I did plenty of research on this decision before I fully committed.
I still needed to make an income while in school, so I stepped back into the restaurant industry. The hours you work in a restaurant are pretty flexible and ideal for students.
I began working part-time as a server, alternating between lunch and dinner shifts. The first semester of the neuroscience program was amazing!
I loved my school, my classes, and my professors. This was 100% the right move. The professors teaching the neuroscience course all had their doctoral degrees in their respective fields.
I never had this when I attended community and state college, and I was in AWE of their brilliance.
They inspired me immensely during my first year and made me realize how much I loved science.
At this point, I was contemplating getting my Ph.D. or Pharm. D. and desired to find a job more related to science and aligned with my new goals.
Once again, I went into the rabbit hole of the internet in search of undergraduate jobs related to science.
I came across medical scribing. This was in 2015… Before becoming a medical scribe, it was THE premed thing to do.
Becoming a scribe changed the trajectory of my entire career path. From the moment I stepped into the hospital, the energy was infectious (no pun intended).
I was hired as an emergency department medical scribe at a busy level-one trauma hospital.
I struggled with training (scribe training is no joke!). The hundreds of drugs and medical terminology I had to learn were so foreign to me.
On top of that, I had to learn the EMR (electronic medical record) system, and for someone who has never been exposed to anything medical, all of this was extremely difficult.
Scribing provides a fantastic foundation and exposure to the medical field. It was the first time I could see myself doing something forever.
Medicine is everything I was looking for in a career; I finally felt fulfilled. After nearly one year as an ED scribe and one year as a tele-scribe, I quit and enrolled in a nursing assistant program.
It became my mission to get direct patient care experience to see if I genuinely enjoy working with patients.
I needed to prove to myself that this was what I wanted to do more than anything else, and I knew this type of experience would provide me with the validation to continue on this journey.
I attended a nursing assistant program four nights weekly and went to school daily.
I didn’t work during this time, but I taught myself how to day trade penny stocks and earn some money. Before I went to sleep, I made a list of penny stocks to watch the next day.
I’d wake up at 7 am to do more research on my watchlist and check to see if any relevant news could influence these stocks.
One day, I invested in a particular penny stock and decided to hold it for most of the day.
Eventually, I had to go to class…
I walked in and immediately sat down in the back of the class, where I could go on my laptop in peace without everyone behind me staring at my screen.
My trading platform was open, and I was analyzing the penny stock I had bought earlier that morning.
(This was probably why I failed gen chem the first time, lol.)
I saw a nearly $400 gain in just a couple of hours. Before the lecture ended, I sold the stock and had my biggest trade yet!
However, I soon graduated from the CNA program and was ready to immerse myself in bedside care.
Certified Nursing Assistant
Becoming a CNA (certified nursing assistant) would allow me to get direct patient care experience and confirm if I want to continue embarking on the premed journey.
It took me approximately seven weeks to complete the CNA program.
Once I graduated, I registered to take the state exam, but it would take another 30-60 days to be approved and scheduled.
I had about two months to kill before I could sit for the exam and get state-certified, so I did a phlebotomy and EKG course.
I figured this would help increase my chances of getting hired since most hospitals in South Florida required both CNA and phlebotomy certifications.
I took the CNA state licensure examination shortly after graduating from the phlebotomy program.
All that training paid off because I was now a CERTIFIED Nursing Assistant! Well, on paper, at least, not in real life yet…
Patient Care Technician
I’m grateful to have been interviewed for one of the two jobs I applied to. Since I also didn’t get state-certified in phlebotomy, I was limited in the jobs I could apply for.
Luckily, a couple of hospitals near me only required your CNA and BLS to work as a patient care technician (PCT).
With only my experience as a scribe, a compelling cover letter, and a good interview, I was hired as an oncology patient care technician on the spot.
I worked the night shift full-time for nearly a year and then dropped to part-time. Enrolling in a CNA program led to the most fulfilling job I could ever imagine as a premed.
Working in the hospital and caring for patients challenged me in ways I hadn’t been before.
The level of responsibility that comes with being a PCT pushed me to be the best version of myself.
I think part of this process teaches you to step into your highest self to achieve what you’re seeking.
Having the utmost discipline, impeccable time management skills, and refined study habits does not happen overnight.
Of course, there are many skills you will have to develop and hone throughout this lifelong journey, but I believe that progress is ever-evolving.
The premed extracurricular activities are necessary for medical school because they allow you to gain the insight needed to help you decide to continue on this rigorous journey.
The encounters I had as a PCT led me to that exact answer I was searching for —I DID want to persist.
To anyone questioning their path career choices or just haven’t found their passion yet, keep putting yourself out there!
Explore your interests and keep trying new things to discover what you really enjoy.
Personal growth happens when you step out of your comfort zone. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, you don’t have to have it all figured out to start.
After reading that, you’re probably interested in becoming a PCT. You can check out this post to learn about what I actually did to get certified.
What has been your most impactful clinical experience on this journey?