When Martin Brown was asked how much adult education helped him prepare for his future, he replied, "A great deal. Prior to studying at Bakersfield Adult School (BAS), I attended Porterville Adult School. At the time I was working in restaurant management and would have been content to make that a career, but the restaurant chain I worked for had financial trouble and eventually closed. The Tulare Employment Development Office offered retraining opportunities to the restaurant's employees. One of the options was healthcare. I really never gave a thought to making a career in healthcare, but I did know something about it because my mom was a nurse and other people in my family were in healthcare, so I was exposed to it while I was growing up."
Adult education gave Martin a chance to change careers. After completing the Nurse Assistant program at Porterville Adult School and being licensed by the State, he started working at a small nursing home in Shafter. "That was in 1999 and I've been at this center ever since."
"In 2003, I became the activity director for the center," says Martin. "I soon realized the job wasn't medical enough. I wanted to be more on the medical side. I had always said I would 'never be a nurse' but the longer I was a nurse assistant the more connected to healthcare, especially geriatrics, I became."
Two things happened in early 2003 to spur Martin on to the next rung on the ladder of his healthcare career. Bakersfield Adult School was just starting its first Vocational Nurse (VN) Program that fall, and one of his co-workers was registered in the program.
"This was the answer to my prayers," says Martin. "I looked into going to Bakersfield College, but their classes didn't fit in with my work schedule, and I had to work to support myself. At BAS the classes were designed to work around my schedule."
There was a big hurdle to overcome, however; taking care of the prerequisites for starting the VN program. Over the course of just a few short months, Martin had to complete all the prerequisites while working full time. "Studying was – and still is – my life," recalls Martin. "Getting into the VN program was a goal that I had and this [taking the prerequisites] was what I had to do to achieve my goal. I had to do the work."
Two teachers stand out in Martin's recollection of the VN program; Carolyn Santiago, his clinical instructor, and Kathleen Bruce, who taught the Anatomy and Physiology class. "Both were excellent and demanding, but they had very different teaching styles. Ms. Santiago was very nurturing and walked with you every step of the way. Ms. Bruce was up front and let us know right away that she was demanding and expected us to do our best in her class." Each teacher in her own way inspired Martin to give 110% to his studies.
Martin credits adult education and studies in health for making him more responsible and to look at people at a different level. "I find I am more compassionate, and this is especially important when working with older patients."
Today, Martin is the Director of Staff Development for the nursing facility. A recent change in job descriptions requires that he become a registered nurse, so he finds himself on the next rung of the ladder. However, instead of taking an RN class, he's decided to earn a Bachelor's degree in nursing, which will open more doors for him in the future. He laughs and says, "Who knows, I might find myself teaching a class in BAS's VN program. At our graduation, one of the BAS administrators suggested I come back some time to teach at the adult school and I just might do that."