From Homeless to Medical Professional with Rx TN
Volunteer State Community College
Turning your life around can be complicated, especially when you’re living out of bags, moving from location to location, and struggling to feed yourself each day. Thirty-two year-old Melinda Peery was homeless, jobless and frustrated, but she knew that she could find a way out, if she could just get on the right path. For Peery, that path has led to a new career as a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, working in a medical office. It all started with a program called Rx TN at Volunteer State Community College. “When I lost my job in February, I decided that I wouldn’t live in fear anymore,” Peery said. “I was going to have a skill or education so that I could support myself. I had lots of friends and cousins that would let me sleep on a couch. I would stay for one night or two nights. I would help by doing chores. I lived off bags of rice from Kroger. That was my meal for the day.” Peery received an email from Vol State about Rx TN. The grant program provides quick and affordable classes, separate from the college degree programs, in very specific medical skills. Peery says that even though she was quite needle-phobic, she knew that phlebotomy, or drawing blood, is a skill that is in demand. So, she enrolled in an Rx TN phlebotomy course. “On the very first day of phlebotomy class I said that I have a fear of needles,” she said. “In the first two hours the instructor had me in front of the class and I had a needle in my arm. It took a lot to overcome my fear.” Being skilled at a blood draw means a lot to patients, but it’s only one skill of many that are needed in a medical office. The Rx TN Phlebotomy course lasts ten weeks and costs $795. Peery next took a Patient Care Technician course and then an Electrocardiogram Technician course. “I was really impressed with how quickly she went through our programs,” said Rx TN program coordinator, Jacquelyn Waters. “It was seven months for three courses.” “Melinda was one of those students who knew what she wanted to do and wouldn’t let anyone stop her,” said Nick French, a phlebotomist at NorthCrest Medical Center who teaches for Rx TN. Even with the relatively low cost of the courses, compared to college degrees, it was still a struggle for the homeless Peery to come up with the money. “I had a women’s group in Wilson County called Wilson One pay $500 towards one class,” said Peery. “I had a cousin who lent me a couple of hundred dollars. Workforce Essentials of Sumner County paid for the ECG program. I was blessed to have a few people believe in me.” The Rx TN instructors soon realized that Peery was ready to tackle another certification that could bring all of her skills together, and take her into the workplace. “Nick, Jackie and Chad kept talking to me about being a CCMA (Certified Clinical Medical Assistant). Nick opened my eyes and changed my perspective. They have all been phenomenal.” Peery passed the certification exam. She was set to look for a job. “I just posted a picture of my completion certificate on Facebook and a friend from high school saw it and told me about this job,” Peery said. It was one of three job offers she received. The position she accepted was Certified Clinical Medical Assistant with Urology Associates in Franklin. “I do a lot of blood work and vitals,” Peery said. “We help the doctors with procedures here. I enjoy the people. I’m to a point in my life that I can take care of others, because I can help myself.” Peery knows it will still be a climb for her to reach her goals, but she feels she has the tools and the perspective to achieve her dreams. “I’m hoping that by March or so I will have a little place to call my own. It will be nice not having to live out of a suitcase.” Rx TN has short courses that start several times each year. They don’t keep the traditional college schedule, which means students can usually find an entry course quickly. “I’ve had several students go onto great jobs,” said French. “Rx TN is offering career paths that haven’t been available before.” “Students who are motivated and enthusiastic about starting a new career, and are willing to put in the hours doing homework will do great,” said Waters. “Of five CMA graduates thus far, we have had all of them pass their certification exam on the first try.” Peery is looking forward to a point in her life where she can do more than just survive. “My next goal is to put somebody else through this program, financially. All sorts of people helped me when I needed it. You have to pay it forward.” Rx TN has programs starting soon. The Electrocardiogram Technician evening course begins March 31. The Phlebotomy Technician Saturday course starts on April 11. The Patient Care Technician course begins July 7. For more information visit www.volstate.edu.rxtn or call and talk to a Completion Coach at 615-230-3624. ### Pictured: Rx TN student Melinda Peery assists with blood tests and other procedures in her new job at a urology clinic.