On this episode of the career interview series, we are joined by Hazel Watson a Clinical Care Associate (CCA) from Berbice, Guyana. Hazel’s passion for healthcare was sparked as a kid when she saw an ambulance and paramedics respond to an accident.
Moving to America with her family as a teen was a major change for Hazel. New York’s cold winters, not being aware of homeroom, and British vs. American English also required some adjustments. She shares the alternative career path she took after her original education and career plans went off track.
- Don’t allow fear, whether your own, your parents, or anyone else’s to hold you back from pursuing your goals and achieving your full potential. By all means, seek advice and counsel from your family and/or people that are knowledgeable or experienced with the subject. But, try to pursue it if it’s positive and something that you want to do. If it works out, great. If it doesn’t that should be fine too. Either way you won’t have regrets about what could have been if only you’d taken the chance.
- Parents usually mean well but sometimes their fear and desire to keep their children safe can hold their kids back from achieving their full potential. I’m not a parent so I’m certainly not an authority on raising kids. As a parent you should voice your concerns. But past a certain age, once a discussion has been had, take a step back and allow your kids to make their own decisions. And as long as what they’re pursuing is positive, be supportive.
- Life can get in the way. But, once you set a goal try to make the effort to continue working towards achieving it. When you take a break from working towards a goal you run the risk of losing the progress you’ve made and it can be difficult to become motivated again.
- Inspiration can come in many forms and quite often at unexpected times. Brief experiences can have a huge impact on your life, your outlook, and future plans. Keeps your eyes open.
- You never know who might be watching and taking inspiration from your actions. I don’t think you’re obligated to be a role model for anyone but your own kids. But, simply being the best version of yourself, pursuing your interests, and striving for your goals can be motivating to others. Do your thing. And you if can, share your experiences with others, especially kids.
Let’s jump right into it. To begin with, give me a brief overview of your background. Where are you from?
I’m from Guyana. New Amsterdam, Berbice, South America.
Tell me a bit about you as a kid. What were your interests? What were your favorite subjects in school?
Maths, English, social studies.
Were you involved in any extracurricular activities?
Yes, track & field. Rounders which is circle tennis. You run a circle instead of running back and forth on the court. And I used to go to the Red Cross [where] I learned how to do dressings, put your arm in a sling or in a cast or your foot in a cast.
What kind of student were you?
Between an A and a B.
Eventually you left Guyana and you moved to America. Where did you move to and about how old were you?
16 years old. Me and my family and we moved to Brooklyn, New York.
How was the transition moving from Guyana to New York?
In the beginning it was hard because, you miss your friends. It was a totally different place, strange place where you don’t really know much people. You have no friends. Then you get adjusted to it after you start going to school and you start meeting other people.
When you moved here, did you have any family or friends or not so much?
Not much. No friends, just family.
And how was the transition going from school in Guyana to going to school here in New York? Was there a drastic difference between the two?
Well yes, there was a difference because the way you attend classes, it was totally different. We didn’t have homeroom in Guyana and here you had homeroom. After you went to I think your first three classes then you went homeroom. So instead of me going to homeroom, I used to just go to all my classes. So the first term I only passed the first three classes and I failed the others because I was going at the wrong time to the classes. And no one corrected me to tell me, “Oh you didn’t belong in this class at this time.”
So the teachers allowed you to sit through the entire period and never said, “Oh, you don’t belong here right now?”
Did you work while you were attending high school or did that come later?
I did. The last year in high school, I did work as a secretary at a program where they were hiring kids for summer jobs. So I used to do secretary work. That was my first job.
And what exactly were you doing?
Filing, typing, collecting the applications. When they bring it in, making sure that they bring in all the paperwork that was needed.
And was that just your first job in America or your first job period?
My first job period.
Following high school graduation, did you go on to college or what? What did you do next?
No, I did not go to college?
Did you want to attend college?
I wanted to go to the army but my mom said, “No.” So then I wanted to be a police officer but then my mom said, “No.” So then I was home for a year. And then I went and did the Home Health Aide course and when I finished I was working with an agency.
Did your mom not want you to join the army or become a police officer for a particular reason? Was she scared or was it something else?
Well, the first thing she said, “Oh, if they have a war then you have to go to war.” And she didn’t want that. You be a police officer, most likely something might go wrong and then you might get killed or you might get hurt, injured. So she didn’t like the idea.
Tell me a little bit about the Home Health Aide program. How long was this training and what exactly did it entail? What did they teach you?
The course was a six-week course and they taught you how to do vitals. How to take care of a patient that could do nothing for themselves. How to transfer them from the bed to the chair and the chair to the bed. How to help them with their active daily living, the things that they cannot do for themselves.
Following completion of the Home Health Aide program you then started working through agencies. Did they help you to find jobs?
Yes. Yes they did.
What were you doing when you went to these jobs?
You went to people’s homes. You take care of one patient at a time which is helping them with the things that they cannot do for themselves. A lot of the times it’s either like the elderly or a younger person who probably met in an accident or something that cannot do anything for themselves. So you take care of them in their home.
About how many years did you spend working as a Home Health Aide?
Between eight to ten years.
And then what motivated you to move on?
I wanted to take another step higher so I did the CNA course. The CNA course, the phlebotomy course, EKG, and IV therapy.
Was that all at the same time in one program or were they separate programs?
They were separate programs.
I’m guessing IV, that’s like putting in and taking out the IV?
So explain to me then what the other courses were. What was the difference between being a CNA and being a Home Health Aide?
You can work in a hospital setting.
As a CNA?
What exactly is a phlebotomist and EKG technician?
A phlebotomist is the person who draws the labs. An EKG technician is the person who does cardiograms, tests on your heart.
Either separately or combined, how long would it take to go through such a program or even just to go through the CNA program?
It’s a six-month course put together.
And so you then went on to work in a hospital?
Yes, I did.
How was the experience of working in a hospital where I’m sure you had more than one patient. Versus working in the home where you just, at least on a daily basis, you just have one patient?
You adjust yourself working with between six to eight patients. You just divide your time, your hours within those six to eight patients. You take care of them in the hospital setting. Which is, you do personal care with them and then you draw whatever labs the doctors order. You go by whatever order had been written for the patients.
Within the hospital setting, who else were you working with?
Well, you work with your other coworkers. Which is the other techs and the nurses. You work as a team.
Did you prefer one environment over the other, working in the hospital or working in people’s homes? Or not so much because there’s not much of a difference?
There’s a difference. I enjoyed working more at the hospital because you learn more. It’s a big difference because it changes from day to day. Every day is different. You don’t always see the same people. You don’t always take care of the same people. Different people, different, everybody’s there for a different reason.
In addition to taking the CNA course and the other courses that you took. Were there any other licensing requirements, additional training, or anything like that?
When you finish the class you have to write the state board to get your license. So I wrote the state board and I got my license for the CNA, phlebotomy, EKG and IV therapy.
Once you got a job and were working in that position were there any additional learning opportunities or anything along those lines?
Yes. Depends on the department [where] you work. You get the opportunity to work in different departments. Which you learn more if it’s the emergency room or ICU because every patient is different. So the requirements of the patients are different.
Tell me a bit about your current profession and what you’re doing now?
I work as a Clinical Care Associate which is either doing patient care or working at the desk. Picking up the orders that the doctors [write] and putting them in the computer. You let the nurses know about the different orders that the doctor’s write. You put it in the computer so the nurses could pick it up or the tech can pick it up, whatever is the order.
You started out in New York and now you live in Georgia. Do you find that there’s a difference between the two states or is it pretty much like the work is the same between the two locations and really just that the patients or hospital policies change?
Basically the same. Just different places but basically the same work.
Looking back over the courses you’ve taken versus actually working on the job. First as a Home Attendant and then later on training to be a CNA and then actually working in the hospital. Did you find that there was a difference between the training and doing the actual work on the job?
Practical and theory are two different things. You’re actually doing it. You feel it, you have a better understanding doing it.
Is there anything you know now having had quite a bit of experience at this point that you wish you knew when you first graduated from high school?
Yes. Which is continued going to school. I started college and was going for nursing but then I did not finish.
What impact or difference do you think it might have made on your healthcare career if you’d gone on to attend college straight out of high school versus the training programs and working in positions that you did?
Obviously, I would’ve been a nurse and been in a better position.
How do you personally define success?
When you set a goal and you achieve it. When you want to get something and you set a goal and you achieve that goal.
Has the current reality of your career fallen short, matched, or surpassed your aspirations and expectations?
I would say fallen short.
Because if I had completed school like I wanted to or like I should have done I would have been at higher ground.
And keeping that in mind, are there any goals or plans that you are currently pursuing either for 2019 or for the near future?
Yes, by going back to school and achieving some of the goals that I think that I should have achieved in my earlier…younger years.
If you were to return to school at this point, where obviously you would be older than your traditional freshmen student. And having worked out in the field for several years. Do you think that you would value the experience a bit more at this point or at least view the experience in a different light than you would have if you’d gone straight to college from high school?
At this point, I think so. Because I would reach my goal that I should have met a long time ago. So it would make me feel better because I’ve reached that goal. Reaching that goal would definitely mean more to me.
What career or life advice would you offer to your younger self or any young person that’s still in school or just getting ready to enter the workforce?
I would advise them to continue going to school. Do it while you’re young. Don’t wait until you get older because the younger you are, the better it is. It’s easier other than waiting until you get older.
Imagine it’s years from now and you’re nearing or already retired. When you look back on your career what accomplishments or achievements would make you consider it a roaring success versus mediocre or disappointing?
Well so far a roaring success even though that I didn’t finish college.
Because the work that I do, I enjoy doing it. I enjoy helping people. I enjoy taking care of people. I enjoy being around people.
Think about people or events (famous or only known to you) that have motivated, inspired, or influenced you in your career. Does anything in particular come to mind?
Yes, because really and truly I started out in healthcare because I remember one Mash* when a truck had run over someone’s foot an ambulance came and got them. My mom’s friend, she was with the Red Cross so she was with the ambulance. And after that happened, I started going to Red Cross with her and I was only like 13, 14 years old. So basically going with her to the Red Cross that’s how I ended up being in the healthcare field.
Are there any specific books that have influenced or inspired you?
Reading Jet Magazine and Ebony Magazine.
You’re interested in what’s going on. Interested in other people’s lives and what’s going on around the world. Jet magazine and Ebony and them, you get a lot of information from them.
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