Alicen Egnew joined Peninsula College’s Medical Assistant (MA) Program in the fall 2013 armed with a GED. On June 20, of this year she graduated with her high school diploma, medical assistant certificate, an AAS degree in medical assisting, and a spring induction into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. She also volunteered to assist with the MA Program’s inaugural pinning ceremony.
A desire to make her family proud, and to be proud of herself, helped Egnew achieve these goals on a path that wasn’t necessarily direct.
During her last two years of high school, Egnew’s family was experiencing some turbulent times.
“I stopped caring about school and what kind of future that would mean, she said. “I dropped out at the beginning of my senior year.” Her family relocated to a different city where finding friends was difficult. “I had the mindset that no one would miss me if I didn’t come back, so I didn’t.”
Though her parents didn’t approve of her decision, she was 18 and free to make her own choices. A year later Egnew married her boyfriend of three years and was expecting a baby. She said she knew that was what she wanted to do and was happy to be starting her own family.
But even as she started a new life with her husband, Egnew says she knew that one day she would return to school. She worked multiple jobs that were leading her nowhere, and felt like she was being talked down to by her supervisors. Still, when her dad would ask if she was going back to school she would reply that she wasn’t ready yet.
“I knew that when I returned I wanted to take it seriously, not flake out like I had done in high school,” Egnew said. “I looked into college a couple of times, but the cost of attending and my financial situation just never lined up. I had a child that needed a roof over his head and food on the table. That was, and always will be, the most important part of living for me.”
When her mom told her that the Westport Cabinet Shop was hiring, she applied, got the job, and enjoyed working there. She learned a lot, was earning a good wage and benefits, and felt that she could be an employee with Westport long-term. When the company let her go during a round of layoffs, Egnew was devastated.
“After a week of dwelling in self-pity, I talked with some family members that were currently enrolled at the college and a light bulb went on,” she said. “I was going to go back to school and get financial help anywhere I could. I knew that it was time.”
Leslie at WorkSource in Port Angeles helped her through the application process, finding a program that suited her and sourced funds to help her with living expenses while she was not working.
The Worker Retraining program helped her pay for books and tuition when her financial aid did not cover all of the expenses.
Rachel Pairsh, director of the Medical Assistant Program, kept Egnew and her fellow students apprised of grant and scholarship opportunities throughout each school year.
“Rachel was awesome at preparing us all for our careers,” Egnew said. “Everything she taught us was a direct reflection of what I have experienced in the work force. Without her influence, I don’t know if I would have had a job right after graduation or the knowledge to be ready for hire.”
Egnew said her biggest support came from her family. Her husband and son were always there to provide her with encouragement while she adjusted to becoming a student again, or when she felt challenged.
Before the end of her internship at Family Medicine of Port Angeles (FMPA), she was asked to submit her resume and application to the organization and to interview with them first before going anywhere else, and was also asked to attend employee meetings while still a student. She was hired by FMPA as a medical assistant upon graduation in 2015.
Her responsibilities as an MA include patient check-in, taking vital signs, preparing patients for whatever the doctor orders, assisting with in-office procedures, and all other medical needs within the scope of the practice. She also stocks rooms, maintains instruments, and schedules appointments. She works from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm four days per week and stays until her work is complete. The transition to work from school was eased by the practicum, and her coworkers’ friendly and helpful attitudes.
“I really enjoy how helpful everyone is. As a student at Family Medicine everyone understood that I was learning and did not expect me to know it all. Now as an employee, other employees understand that I am still learning, and when I have a question it gets answered as soon as possible. Everyone is very welcoming.”
While at PC, Egnew represented her fellow students on the Medical Assistant program’s Advisory Board, and will continue serving in this capacity as a graduate for the next year.
For now, Egnew is enjoying getting her feet on the ground in her new career and having a steady income. Though she has no plans to return to school in the immediate future, she wouldn’t rule it out down the road.
“Right now, it’s nice not having homework to finish up,” she said.