Pre-Pandemic Prep Pays Off for Medical Assistant Instructor

June 8, 2022


Over the last 22 years, Medical Assistant instructor Kathy Gates has held many roles at Blackhawk.

Starting out as a lab assistant in the EMT program and teaching CPR, she then transitioned to a lab assistant in the Nursing program. From there, she taught and assisted in the Certified Nursing Assistant and Medical Assistant programs. She and colleague Tina Jordan also managed and operated the first human simulation mannequin at Blackhawk.

Growing up in New Jersey, Kathy followed her parents east when they moved to Wisconsin and earned her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Associated Nursing (ADN) degrees right here at Blackhawk. She then earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing degree.

During her time at Blackhawk, Kathy has seen teaching take the path of flexibility to serve students via online or hybrid in addition to in-person courses. For many teachers, it was something that was rushed into existence due to the pandemic. However, it didn’t catch her by surprise.

“My colleague, Tara Zachgo, and I were teaching via Zoom in hybrid courses a year before the pandemic hit,” she said. “This preparedness allowed our Medical Assistant students to continue their education during these challenging times and assist others with this new way of life.”

That’s not to say the pandemic didn’t present other challenges. As a teacher, Kathy says it’s become clear that some aspects of flexible learning became maybe too flexible, especially for programs that require hands-on learning.

Going from the classroom to the field, Kathy hopes her students remember that it’s important to truly listen and validate what the other person is saying, which can mean more than another new prescription.

“You may not be able to cure them or solve their problems, but you gave yourself during their time of need,” she said.

For potential students looking to come into this field, Kathy’s advice is simple.

“Both healthcare and teaching are professions to service the community and not to get rich,” she said. “However, the rewards are in the eyes of patients, families, and future colleagues that you have cared for, serviced, or taught during your professional journey.”

She says it’s also important to take time to reflect on our own resilience, accomplishments, and well-being and to allow ourselves to be cared for by others.

Away from the classroom, Kathy likes to spend time with her family, including her mother and daughter. She also has two cats, two dogs and one bearded dragon.

The week of June 5-11 is recognized as Community Health Improvement Week. Led by the American Hospital Association and AHA Community Health Improvement, this annual recognition week is a time to honor the people working in partnership to improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities and advance health equity.
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