Sacrifice, Loss Lead Medical Assisting Grad to New Career

Posted by on February 22, 2013

medical assisting program

Juanita Kerrigan graduated from the MSB-Plymouth medical assisting program in January 2013

After nearly three decades working in health care, Juanita Kerrigan was looking for more. For 27 years, she worked as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), working in hospitals, nursing homes and private homes.

After all that time, she knew it was time for change. The Minnesota School of Business-Plymouth medical assisting program helped provide that.

“As you get older, being a CNA can take a toll on your body with all the lifting and physical work,” Juanita said. “It was time to move up and advance myself. [Medical assisting] was the next logical step.”

Juanita took those steps and graduated this past January with a diploma from our medical assisting program at the age of 51. She is getting ready to start her new career as a certified medical assistant (CMA) at Maple Grove’s new North Memorial Internal Medicine Clinic, which was the site of her internship.

“I love it there,” Juanita said. “I was able to use a lot of the skills I learned in the lab and urgent care. Jody Stenzel [medical assistant teacher at Plymouth] was instrumental in getting me in there.”

Juanita’s path was not without sacrifice and tragedy, however.

Three years ago, the passing of her mother from lung cancer inspired her move back to school. A chance encounter in the emergency room helped Juanita with her next higher education decision.

“A girl came in and took her blood and read her EKG,” Juanita recalled. “My mother asked ‘How did you do that,’ and she told her she went to school to become a medical assistant. My mother said, ‘You’re smart enough, you need to go back to school to do that.’”

Three months after her mother’s passing, Juanita enrolled at the Plymouth campus. Her journey over the next 2.5 years didn’t come without challenges, as she fit classes between two jobs to support herself.

“I stocked shelves at Menards from 5 to 9 a.m., six days per week, and spent three days per week with an in-home client, all while fitting school in,” Juanita said.

Her dedication paid off, as she finished with a 3.96 grade point average and perfect attendance.

“My biggest challenge was definitely balancing those jobs and getting all my schoolwork done,” she said. “Life happens, and I had to put a lot of things on hold. My focus was on school and studies.”

Juanita, beyond a doubt, proved that it can be done, no matter your stage of life.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are,” she said. “I couldn’t have done any of it without family and friends. I had a wonderful support group at school and a lot of support along the way.”

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