Slightly more than two decades ago, Shaquita Jamison was a teenager who gave birth to her first child — a boy who has since grown up and made her a grandmother. And, while his birthdate marks the beginning of a journey that led to the growth of her own family, Shaquita also remembers this day for another important moment.
This is the day she realized she wanted to someday enter the healthcare field.
“My mom wasn’t around, so I was having the baby by myself. And during the whole experience, I was so, so mean to the nurse,” Shaquita recalled. “I didn’t want her touching me, and I called her lots and lots of really bad names.”
But, the nurse stayed with her during the entire birth experience. Then, she came back the next day to check on Shaquita and her son.
“That was the day,” she said. “She was so patient with me — her whole demeanor and personality as a human being was so positive — and I had been so disrespectful to her. So, we had a conversation where I apologized to her and said how sorry I was. That’s when I came up with the idea of being a nurse.”
When you’re a teenager and have just become a single mom, however, life can get in the way of your goals. For Shaquita, that included dropping out of high school to support her child. While she successfully earned her GED at 18, these challenges also included a number of fits and starts when it came to pursuing a career in nursing.
“I went to school off and on from 18 to 35,” she said. “But, I was young and I kept having babies. I had to pay rent, and so I couldn’t keep up with my education.”
This cycle, however, was broken when Shaquita joined the Medical Assistant Program at United Education Institute (UEI) in Morrow, Georgia. After recently completing her externship, she is now employed full-time as a medical assistant for an organization called Heal, where she accompanies physicians who make house calls throughout the Atlanta area.
“In the past, I let life get in my way, but I told myself I wasn’t going to let anything stop me this time,” Shaquita said. “I knew I was going to be successful at UEI.”
Inspired by a UEI Graduate
Before looking into UEI, Shaquita knew she was running out of time when it came to pursuing her dream of working in the healthcare field. At 36, after having to put education on hold as she raised a family of five children, it wasn’t so much about age as it was about the mounting frustration and discouragement that came as a result of past attempts. Just as she felt ready to give up, however, a friend (and UEI graduate) told her about the programs at UEI.
“It grabbed my attention because it was something I could do fast,” Shaquita said. “I didn’t have two or three more years of school in me. It was my last resort, and I told my husband that I have to finish. That was my mindset.”
Shaquita put her all into the UEI Medical Assistant program. Throughout the entire eight months of schooling, she earned straight A’s and a perfect attendance. And, she quickly caught the attention of instructors and staff. According to Shaquita, much of this drive comes from within. But, she also credits the instruction she received throughout her UEI education. Medical Assistant instructor Lita Clunis stood out to her as someone who simply refused to let her students fail.
“She was so invested in our future — every last one of us students,” Shaquita said. “Ms. Clunis made sure she stayed on us to have our work done, even during the pandemic. She called every day just to make sure we were all keeping up.”
“Shaquita was an awesome student. From day one, she was determine to be successful despite a few obstacles that came in her way, but she didn’t let it stop her. She never missed any online lectures, virtual labs, or assignments,” Lita said. “I am proud of her, and I have no doubt that she is an awesome medical assistant.”
Hired After Externship
Around the time Shaquita was looking to solidify a location for her externship, Career Services staff at the Morrow campus had been in touch with Heal as a potential employer. They thought Shaquita would be a good fit for the role. It’s a position she quickly fell in love with, and one she could see herself performing for years down the road.
“I love it so much,” she said. “There’s so much freedom, and you don’t have anyone micromanaging you.”
“Instead of the patients coming to the clinic or hospital, we come to them,” Shaquita said of the position. “I ride with the doctor. I take vital signs, I give patients shots, draw blood, take urine samples … it’s just like we would do in a hospital.”
Shaquita plans to further her education and training to give her value an even bigger boost. She has even considered eventually starting her own home health care service — one that would contract their services to healthcare organizations like Heal.
In the meantime, she’s become a vocal proponent of United Education Institute, even encouraging her husband to register at the school.
“I would definitely recommend this school, especially with the instructors I had,” she said. “And, if you go into the Medical Assistant program, I would ask for Ms. Clunis to be your teacher.”