One woman, four careers

Grace & Emily 02a.JPGThis interview was done by two of our members. Their questions are denoted by E or G.

E: What do you do at the hospital?

I’m a surgical assistant.

E: What brought you to that occupation?

It’s a longer story than you probably have time for. I got my Masters at William & Mary in Education, did that for twenty years, and then had a mid-life review of what I wanted to do. I decided that I wanted to go into medicine.

G: When did you make that transition?

I went to EVMS (Eastern Virginia Medical School) two and a half years ago, and I’ve been doing this job for a year now.

G: Are you glad that you made the decision to change occupations?

Definitely – it’s been an interesting career change. I didn’t know as much about the medical community as I do now, and the people I work with are fabulous. We work really well together to ensure that people that come in for surgery are well taken care of.

E: What’s one of the most difficult things about the job?

Seeing the patients come in because a lot of the times they are really sick and you can’t help but feel really bad for them. If it was your family or your loved one…you would never want anyone to go through that. Both of my parents passed away and they had so many medical issues before then, so when I see some older folks, especially because there’s a lot of elderly people in this community, it brings me back to my parents.

G: Has there been a specific instance in your medical career so far that has reassured you that it has been the right career choice for you?

I’ve helped with C-sections, and I’ve really enjoyed that. Seeing babies come out healthy and seeing the moms with them, it’s incredible. The neat thing I discovered is that every baby has a unique voice. Some people think that crying all sounds the same, but it doesn’t. Every baby sounds different.

I try to come here and walk before I go to work because it’s always so beautiful and there’s always neat things to see. Every season it’s different.

G: Do you have to work really long hours?

I’m 11 am to 7 pm today. Depending on the day, I’ll be on call, so tonight I am on call 11 pm to 7 am. On the weekends, we share shifts, so I’ll be on call for 24 hours on the weekend, either a Saturday or a Sunday. Sometimes you don’t get called in, and sometimes you work all night long. The last time I pulled all nighters was when I was your age, but now I’m doing them again! I did one a couple weeks ago, which was doable, but the next morning I was really tired.

G: Do you ever feel like your career gets in the way of other things that you want to pursue?

Yeah, because I’m at the age now where I want to travel more and exercise, but I do enjoy my work.

E: It’s so nice to see someone who gives up themselves for others, it’s just a really nice occupation.

Thank you. It’s been really neat because everyone I work with – the nurses, the surgeons, everyone – they’re wonderful.

G: Could you speak more to what made you want to change your career?

I worked for twenty years as a wildlife biologist and then an environmental educator. I really liked that job and enjoyed working with kids, but after my parents died, I started to reevaluate where I was and what I wanted to do. I had always been interested in medicine, so I just figured that it was time to try something different. I do miss working with kids though. I would take middle school kids to Florida to learn about habitats down there and we would go snorkeling and see dolphins, turtles, and alligators, so it was really fun. But this career is completely different and I’ve done a lot of really cool things through it. It’s just different.

My dad was always into education and constantly taking classes no matter what age he was, so I think he would approve that I decided to go back to school in my fifties and start over.

Throughout my life, I was a zookeeper, a wildlife biologist, an environmental educator, and now I’m in medicine. And I might change again! I’ve got plenty of time left – there’s so much out there.

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