After 20 years in the plumbing industry, Adrian Gonzales decided it was no longer a fit for him.
“I’m 40. I was near the middle of my life and looking at what am I doing. Am I happy?” he said. “I’ve been in the plumbing industry for 20 years. That’s what I’ve been doing for half my life. When I was younger it was fun, I liked it, but I wasn’t happy doing it anymore. I thought, ‘What should I do?’ ”
Adrian thought back to every job interview he has had in the past. The interviewer would always ask, “Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?” For the first time in his life, plumbing was not his answer.
Adrian had a passion for helping people. He enjoyed volunteering and talking to people, and had once worked as a nurse’s assistant at a middle school. One night, a video for UEI College in Chula Vista came across his TikTok. It was about the medical assisting program and Adrian was hooked.
“I’m very interested in the body and everything. I thought it was going to be cool,” he said. “The first day I was there we did vaccinations and TB tests, and I was excited when I went home. I thought, ‘I think I can do this. I think the more I do, the more I’ll like this.’ ”
‘THEY CHECK UP ON YOU EVERY STEP OF THE WAY’
UEI was different from other schools Adrian had attended in the past.
“All those other colleges were big and more independent for students,” he said. “At UEI, they work with the students to help students progress because it is so fast. I liked that too. At the bigger universities, you would be lucky to talk to a professor. You never really have that one-on-one relationship and the hand-in-hand experience, even on the first day of class.”
The best part for Adrian was the relationships he built with his instructors and classmates.
“We had a good group of students,” he said. “If someone needed something, because everyone was going through their own issues and background, but if anyone needed something, we all helped each other. That was one of the best things was working together with everybody. All the staff I had from the start to the end, everyone was extraordinary and made it easy for us to get through. They are not there to enroll you and that’s it. They check up on you every step of the way.”
“He was a pleasure to have in class,” said Elvira Miller, Adrian’s instructor. “He was very personable, outgoing and easy to talk to. He got along with everyone really well. That’s important. Adrian was just a very caring person. A very empathetic person.”
Adrian took pride in being in class every day and working hard. There was one day he missed. During a lesson on checking blood pressure, he noticed his own blood pressure was alarmingly high. He ended up going to the hospital. His new-found skills helped him make some important health adjustments.
“If I wasn’t in school, I wouldn’t have known I had high blood pressure,” he said. “It was a little scary but good to find out. From the ER, I got a full physical and did 180 degrees on my health. I’m in good health now.”
‘I WAS THERE’
Going from the plumbing industry to the medical field was not always easy. Each has its own terminology that takes time to master. The hardest part for Adrian was having the energy to go from his full-time job during the day to class at night. Luckily, the content kept him interested and at the end of his externship, he was offered a job.
“The program, it changed me to be a better person,” he said. “I’m more happy with what I’m doing now. Before I was doing plumbing over and over. Same thing, different situation. It’s a lot of physical labor so you come home and you are tired, you are beat from the day. You don’t want to do anything. Now I come home and I want to see what I can do now. I have more energy and I want to look into learning more. My education has not stopped yet. I’m still looking into more education. It has motivated me to want to do more for myself.”
Adrian plans to continue to become an RN one day.
“He has a very positive attitude, he’s very empathetic, very caring, that’s what the medical field needs,” Elvira said. “He just knows how to work well with others. I think he’s going to have a great future with the positive attitude he has. I’m so proud of him.”
Thinking back to his old career also motivates Adrian to keep pushing forward. He relates to anyone who feels unsure about where the future may take them.
“Can you stay where you are at for 10 more years or 20 more years?” he asked. “I was there. I was intimidated about starting a new career, but I would say there are a million reasons not to do something, but you just need a door to open … I got to a point where it was time for a change, and I knew it was time for a change. Now I see myself here and now when I see myself in 10 years, it is either at a bigger facility or a different position. I want to be a leader. I want to help others.”