Professor Wendy Charity has been a full-time faculty member of the Medical Assisting program at Swedish Institute since 2012. Her academic instruction concentrates on the CAMA program but has covered classes for Law & Ethics and Psych as needed in other programs. We sat down with Mrs. Charity to talk about the path that led her to where she is today, and her advice to students studying to go into the field of healthcare.
• How did you get into the medical field, and how did you begin teaching at Swedish Institute?
I enrolled in a Health Careers program in high school at the age of 16 years. From there I obtained my Certification for Nurse Assisting while graduating with my diploma. It became a part of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Being a part of health and wellness was something very important to me at a young age even when I didn’t really understand it.
I became a career student for a good part of my life because of my children. I had children at a very young age and I was a single parent for a good part of their lives. As a domestic violence survivor I knew that every choice I made had to be the right choice. There was no more room for error only success. It was difficult for me to be in school, parent, and work three jobs. Yes, I worked two to three jobs for a good part of 18 years as a mother. Searching for childcare was always difficult.
That is when I decided to go back to school and give nursing a shot (no pun intended). I had many issues with childcare and my living situation and could not commit at the time. I found a Medical Assisting Program that offered fast track training and skills for the field. This was possible to complete because I had financial help with childcare programs and my parents support.
After working 15 years in a clinical environment while juggling other odd jobs, I decided that I needed something that I would enjoy and could do long term. The odd jobs were tiring and leaving me hopeless. I updated my resume online and received many responses for medical assisting positions. I was not looking for another M.A. job, but instead I was looking for an additional source of income.
I received a call from a school in 2006 to teach clinical skills to future medical assistants. It was love at first sight in the classroom and I was hired immediately. It was very similar to patient education, and I was well versed with the medical environment and the skills, which made my performance a smooth transition.
I was proud then as I am now to have been part of my student’s life and academic career. I was proud to be a part of a place in their life that I once stood and know that they too would be successful.
• What do you love most about teaching Medical Assisting?
MOMENTS: I love seeing growth; I love seeing the “light bulb go on” when students finally understand a concept and skill. I love hearing the trials and tribulations of each student. I love that they are unique and have so much to offer in the field. They help me enjoy teaching and I have no regrets for choosing this career. I love to see the perseverance and determination when they think they cannot go on. I love to know that I work for a place that commits to supporting the future of our students. I love being able to learn new things and apply them in the classroom, and I love watching them unite and support one another during difficult times. I love the teamwork and the leadership my students possess. I love them just as much as I love teaching.
• What, in your opinion, makes a good student?
The desire to want more in life and not settle are the components of a good student. Many students thrive for different reasons and under different circumstances. You could rise up from the worst neighborhoods and fail from the best. It is up to the individual, the student, to decide if they are going to rise or fall. It is up to them to understand that there will be bumps and ditches, and trenches along the way.
Important factors in their life involve good supportive members of their team. Many times students do not have that support from family and/or friends. Being a teacher is another way students can find positive support and help with motivation. Sometimes the deed and/or task fall into our hands.
• Tell us your experience of sudden lockdown when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.
The lockdown added more stress and anxiety for our students, our families and all of Swedish. However, it was also a chance for us to rise to the occasion and do what we set out to do as teachers.
I had to convert a room into a classroom and Laboratory in a short time. I invested financially, emotionally, and physically to help support our program. This meant spending less time with my family and more time on line with classes, many hours prepping for lectures and labs, and providing my classes with the appropriate materials via video lectures for them to understand concepts and skills.
• How did you (and how do you continue to) keep the students engaged?
This was probably the most fun and yet the most exhausting task I have experienced as a teacher. My focus was mainly on keeping the students from “giving up” hope and not allowing negative thoughts and vibes in our zoom/teams meetings.
Engaging the students involved prepping lectures that involved Q&A’s, demonstrations, case discussions, and even games. Most of all, it involved treating each student as the unique individual that they are and making sure they did not lose sight of their goals.
I have a complete lab in my home thanks to eBay and Amazon. I couldn’t have done it without those organizations and my husband. We have “pow-wows” and “talks” as if we were still in a classroom setting. Many times after class ended, students requested to stay and review for upcoming tests, review for clarity on lectures and concepts. I created an assortment of clinical videos that the student’s seem to enjoy. I have incorporated student videos as part of their assessments for certain clinical components, which has been quite successful and they really enjoy it.
• In closing, what would you say to a current student or a prospective student who is thinking about their career and their future?
I love the opportunity to speak to prospective students. When admissions take tours with potential students they can hear live lectures and see hands-on skills assessments with our current students.
If a positive ambition exists in your life that you wish to accomplish, it cannot happen if you just think it, you have to execute it. Anything that is built should begin with a blue print. This blue print gives it’s creator an idea and direction and substance to work with. If you want something that will last then you must build a strong foundation. The career you choose is your idea but your foundation includes your education and training. Never lose sight or focus of your ideas and desires to be a better you. I would not be where I am today If I did not believe these words.
– Professor Wendy Charity
If Professor Charity’s story has inspired you to “be a better you,” click here to learn more about our Medical Assisting Program at Swedish Institute and see if it is the right career path for you and your future.