As it turns out, getting into a program to become a registered nurse (RN), a nurse anesthetist, or a dental hygienist is a very competitive business. As the four speakers at the Health Science Career Panel analyzed career options, they shared not only their personal work experiences and choices, but they also offered suggestions in the nursing, anesthesiologist, technical, and dental hygiene fields to PCC students and veterans last Thursday afternoon in room W-206.

According to Michael Boytim, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, and Assistant Director at Kaiser Permanente (KP) School of Anesthesia, if you want to become an RN, it’s really good if you come from an anesthesia technology program, for example, someone with prior health care experience is what they want to see, because the two fields are so related.

“When you are an RN, you work on committees, in leadership positions, maybe you educate or train new graduates to come in; those are the people that are very competitive, so you have to figure out how to set yourself apart from anybody else in this room that are all applying,” said Boytim

PCC offers transfer majors, degrees, and certificates. There are different types of nursing programs here, aside from the RN program. Students can also enroll in a nursing assistant certificate program and become licensed vocational nurses. They all offer certification, and in some cases an associate degree.

Carmita Veliz holds an RN license, a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing (BSN) with a Public Health Nurse (PHN) Certificate. She has also earned a Master of Science degree in Nursing (MSN).

According to Veliez, who is now an RN specialist working at PCC’s Student Health Services, the job can be very stressful and overwhelming, so it’s important to learn how to compartmentalize.

“In choosing the nursing profession, I believe students need to know what kind of nurses they want to become.” said Veliz. “ [As a nurse] you have to be current with the medical practices of nurses, be accountable, and treat colleagues and patients with dignity, respect, and compassion; understand and comply with the code of ethics for nurses, and not be judgmental.”

Dental hygienist Adrine Reganian, a PCC instructor who came from Armenia and got her bachelor’s degree in the U.S. says that the dental hygienist program is also very competitive; last year 200 students applied, and they only took 16 people.

“You can get a dental hygiene associate degree here, which is a two-year program. A job in this field pays about $70,000 annually.” Raganian said. “ You can also become a product consultant, a health care coordinator, an administrator, or research. In some cases [in shortage areas], you can open your own office as a registered dental hygienist, although you have to be working with a dentist.”

Reganian suggests that students continue their education. There are courses they can take at Pasadena City College, and then transfer to Cal State LA, or other colleges.

“Before entering this field of studies, you have to consider all aspects associated with this profession,” said Reganian. “Like the fact that you will be working with people’s mouths, and sometimes it’s bloody, and pussy, and it smells.”

Vicki Reyes is a Nursing Anesthetist Specialist and Assistant Clinical Department Administrator working in the operating room at Kaiser Permanente, where she was originally offered an ‘in-between’ position. Initially, it was more of a supporting role, rather than providing anesthesia. Then, KP wanted to offer that kind of job all over California, and then globally (not just in the hospital where she started.)

Reyes said that it was very interesting to take a non-existent profession and then establish it as a national one. She started with an Associate of Science degree, which lasts only two years, and it gives students all the prerequisites to transfer into nursing or some of the other health care professions, as well as a Certificate of Achievement, which qualifies them for the National Certification Examination.

“Graduating as an anesthesia technologist is a good pathway for those who want to go into nursing.” said Reyes. “You wouldn’t need to take any prerequisite classes.”

As Reyes suggests, if students want to do something more specialized, being certified anesthesia technologists would get them into anesthesia based equipment, which is a major part of the profession; they use endoscopy, hemodynamic monitoring devices, and ultrasound machines.

There’s a variety of things students could do afterwards; they could get a biomedical certification, or work for companies which will put them through their own specific, and rigorous training. The pay for these kind of jobs varies from about $58,000 to about $75,000 annually.

Reyes gets called all over the country, and she says that there are always openings for certified technologists.

“It depends on what type of repair you want to do.” Said Reyes. “There are biomedical technicians that take the anesthesia technology program, so that they can specialize in anesthesia equipment.”

For Reyes, one of the best aspects of her job is that she is never doing the same thing, and also that she’s always on her toes in case of an emergency. She knows that as the profession grows there will be more shift options and considers it a definite plus. If someone wanted a night shift there are hospitals that are open 24 hours, but Reyes thinks that the most common shifts in the anesthesiology field are from early in the morning to early afternoon. It works well for people going back to school.

Pedro Onofre, who used to be in the Marines, is now a Pasadena City College student who is happy to be here at the PCC clinic.

“Everybody helps out everybody else,” said Onofre. “If somebody has an extra patient, they’ll give it to you, so you can meet your requirements. Especially coming from a veteran background, there is a lot of adjusting, but the instructors are very flexible.”

In spite of his military background, Onofre always had an interest in dentistry, so he decided to go back to school and see where that led. He got into the PCC dental hygiene program about a year ago, and has one more year to go before he receives his license as a registered dental hygienist.

Onofre’s plan is to start working right away to accumulate more experience, but he’s also going to continue with school, in order to get his bachelor’s degree, and then his master’s degree.

“I’m not sure where I want to go to finish my degree,” said Onofre. “But I’m either going to take the master’s route to teach, or I want to go into dentistry to get my DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) to become a dentist. So I’m still on the fence on what route to take. I like the profession because it’s so flexible. I know other hygienists who work two or three days a week, and they go to school and study the rest of the time, and it works perfectly for them.”

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