Alumni Spotlight: Linda Hernandez

Linda Hernandez graduated from Summit College’s Medical Assistant program in March 2017. This was a big career change for her, and she originally thought she would transition to more of a medical billing and coding program. After doing further research, however, she came to the realization that one-on-one patient care would definitely make her happier.

Prior to attending Summit College, Linda spent 20-plus years working in the world of retail, so she is accustomed to interacting directly with people and has a phenomenal background in customer service. Linda started her career directly out of high school, working her way up to the role of district manager, trainer and recruiter. She worked at both Lane Bryant and Torrid, for sixteen years and four years, respectively. She said, “When I turned 40, I wanted something new. I left my career and went to school.” The need for change was rooted in the lifestyle that retail demanded. “The retail world is hard. I’ve done it for so long. It was because I had to do it. I ended up loving my career, 20-plus years, but I got to a point where I wanted to do more.” At multiple points throughout her career, Linda contemplated going back to school, but she could not afford it. “I’m finally at a point in my life where I could do what I wanted. I grew the ladder, I went on to the top. I got to the point that I needed to do something for myself.”

For Linda, the thought of going back to school was exciting, yet intimidating. Here she was, 40 years old, making a complete career change, with no college experience. It was daunting. “I picked Summit because I visited other schools in the area and Summit didn’t feel forced. I felt forced and pressured with the others. I prayed about it. My husband and I prayed about it. Summit was the right choice for me.” All of her nerves and fears went out the door rather quickly. She explained, “The beginning was hard. I was 40 years old, just a high school graduate. But before you knew it, I had a bunch of girlfriends all over again. And my teacher was extremely knowledgeable. She was a lot younger than I was but didn’t treat me like some older lady. I was used to training girls her age in my field, and here I was as her student. She was amazing.” Linda could not speak more highly of the positive experiences she had. “The staff was amazing; my teacher was amazing. They worked with me really well. They were very supportive.”

Upon graduation, Linda obtained a position in an office, working as a medical assistant for a physical therapist, where she still works today. She has a wide variety of responsibilities, including authorization of all new patients and setting up appointments, as well as strategically and efficiently setting up the physical therapist’s schedule, making sure it is always full. She also does some medical billing and coding, conducts intake interviews, asks insurance companies to authorize additional visits for patients, if needed, and checks patient eligibility. Her favorite aspect of her job is definitely her patients. “I still get to work with people. I’m able to take care of people and am able to make them happy, it’s just on a different level than I used to do.” When Linda started in this position, it was quite clear to her that there was a lack of connection and relationship with the patients. Her boss trusted her to change that dynamic, and she did just that. “I love my patients. I build a good rapport with them and make sure they’re being taken care of. We want them to enjoy coming here. I enjoy making sure they are taken care of.”

Her life now is completely different than it was prior to attending Summit. “My life before Summit, I worked 24/7. I did my job because I was good at it. Not that I didn’t love parts of it, I did, but I worked so hard, I would miss out on my life. I was so consumed with my laptop and constantly going.” Things have changed so much that her friends even comment on how calm she is nowadays. “Now I wake up, go to work and I love my job. I get to go home at 5 pm and I’m done for the day. I don’t take it all home. I’m not stressed out at all. My previous career was very stressful.”

Looking to the future, Linda has so much to celebrate and enjoy. She is going to become a grandma for the first time this November, which she is incredibly excited about. Also, her husband retired from the Navy in 2014, he has been gone since June 2016, so Linda is very much looking forward to his return this December. His absence has been difficult for her, but it did allow her time to focus on her studies and build her new career. “He got to see me start school and see me in my scrubs. I did it, and he’s super proud, and I’m super proud.” Linda is seriously considering enrolling at Summit again in the near future to complete the Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) program, but for right now, she wants to focus on building her career even more. She currently works part-time, so, although she loves her job, she is excited to get into the field full-time, potentially at the VA hospital. “My options are open for the first time in a long time. It feels good,” Linda gratefully stated.

The most significant insight Linda wants students to understand is that anyone can do it, both because of their own ability and the support they will receive. She told a story about how, in the first two months of her time at Summit, she would create lists of questions. Her instructor would stay after class, sit down one on one with Linda and go through every one. “Anyone can go back to school as long as you want it. Even my friends my age, I tell to go back. They are so intimidated because they’ve been out of school for so long, but age doesn’t matter if you want it. I think people forget that. Just because you’re 30 or 40, it doesn’t matter. If this is what you want to do, you’re passionate about it and you’re determined, you can do it. Age doesn’t matter anymore.” It is safe to say that Linda bravely took the leap and it has paid off in more ways than she could have imagined. “I love my job. School was hard work, going back at 40. But it was a great experience. My life is pretty amazing. I don’t think it’s ever been this good.