Learning on the Job at Cooper University Hospital and MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper
Making a difference as a certified medical assistant/critical care technician, on my way to becoming a doctor
By Jordi Torres, Propel fellow, New Jersey
As a certified medical assistant at Cooper Hospital in the Roberts Pavilion and MD Anderson Cancer Center, I help patients in their battle against cancer. The staff here never let a patient feel they are fighting alone.
As a medical assistant, I do key tasks like taking vital signs and measuring blood sugar. It is my job to make the patient as comfortable as they can be during their stay in the hospital. Because I am bilingual and speak both English and Spanish, I play another key role, too: I can help informally translate for patients. For specific medical issues, I leave it to professional translators, but where I can help with everyday communication, I can. I am so proud to do this. The language barrier is a big problem and the patients have told me that they hate the translator phones. When they need me, I’m there, and I will tell the nurse or doctor right away what they are saying.
I began working here as part of my externship with Propel America. I got connected to Propel my senior year at Camden Academy Charter High School. I knew I wanted to do something in the medical field for my career, but I didn’t know exactly what it would be. Propel was offered as a class for seniors that would lead into training programs and then job interviews for certain roles — including being a certified medical assistant. I decided this would be my starting point in the medical field.
Laura Jakimowicz, Propel’s program director in New Jersey, came in and talked to us about what this job would be like, what work environments are like, and how to navigate them. A teacher at CACHS taught Propel at first, but when schools closed due to COVID-19, Laura and the Propel team led the class online. Eventually, when it was safe to be together in small groups again, we met in cohorts of nine students, socially distanced, wearing masks. It was nice to have a team that was all in this process together.
We all began training with American Training Center. Through our course with them, we learned the ins and outs of being a medical assistant, and then we began our externships. Now I am learning on the job.
I have learned a lot since day one and I feel I am already making a difference. I had a patient not too long ago who I worked closely with. We got to know each other well. But when I was leaving my shift one Monday, he did not look well. It seemed he was going downhill. I knew he would be in good hands with the team, but it was concerning to see.
My next shift was on Wednesday, and when I came in, the man looked and said, “Jordi?”
His daughter started crying when he said my name. He had been in the ICU and he was getting better, but he was not saying much and he did not remember many people’s names. He said mine. When I came to him, he told his daughter “Jordi never left my side when he was here.”
That’s how I knew this was the job for me. I’m only eighteen. If I’m making a difference for him at such a young age, how much more can I do in my life? It is definitely a challenge to work in this environment, but I like challenges and I like serving my community. I am also in the Civil Air Patrol, which works with the U.S. Air force as an auxiliary unit. Between these two things, I feel I am making the world a better place.
I will keep doing that. I am not stopping here. I will be a doctor eventually. Having been a CMA will help me in that role. I will know what it is like to do the one-on-one things some doctors don’t always do, like taking blood pressure. Being bilingual will continue to be an asset, too.
Propel can help me figure out the steps to get there, both in terms of academic steps and financial planning. Throughout all of this, Laura, my coach at Propel, and the team at American Training Center have never doubted me. They want us to be great in our careers. I feel I am already doing great work, and I will continue to. My knowledge and experience will only grow from here, and my impact will, too. There will be so many more patients I get to know, so many people who will feel comforted that I am by their side. So I will stay there, fighting for their health every step of the way.