Mom of 3 College Graduates Takes Her Turn
By Kirsten Slyter on 05/19/2021
Lilian Perez’s first job in the medical field meant transcribing notes from healthcare providers on a typewriter loaded with three carbon copies. Now she’s graduating from college with a Health Information Technician Associate’s degree she accomplished fully online.
But for those who know Perez, that’s not completely surprising. She’s been adapting in the field of medical transcription for quite some time, including telecommuting for 25 years, even without a formal college education.
But after her three sons graduated college, she decided to go back with encouragement from her family. “It’s Mom’s time to go back to college!” she jokes.
Finding her way in the medical field
Early on, Perez dreamed of becoming a teacher. She started taking college classes through tuition reimbursement benefits she received at the university where she worked as a medical transcriptionist. Between the long commute, working full time and parenting three young children, it was too much. She decide to commit to spending more time with her kids. She didn’t want to miss anything.
At the time, the flexibility of working as a medical transcriptionist worked well for her. She could take breaks to drive her kids to their extracurricular activities even if that meant working late.
However, as she progressed in the field, the medical transcriptionist industry started to change. Deadlines became much tighter, and with voice recognition technology advancing, there was less work to go around. Perez started to consider her other options in the healthcare field. She also wanted to advance her education. “I always wanted to go back to college.”
On Honoring Family
Not only did Perez want to go back to school for herself, she wanted to do it for her family. Perez’s mother’s passing in 2018 was heartbreaking for her. Her mother had worked as a nurse, and her stories had inspired Perez to go into the medical field herself. She was also an inspiration for Perez to go back to school. “Getting my degree was a way to honor my mom. Everything I do is to honor her,” she says.
Advancing into health information technology
When she started researching schools, Perez was looking for an all-online program, something that wasn’t readily available when she first took college courses. She was surprised to find a 100% online program where she wouldn’t have to step foot on campus at all if she didn’t want to.
She was also happy to find that the Rasmussen University Health Information Technician Associate’s degree was CAHIM accredited, a must if she wanted to apply to become a registered health information technician after graduation.
Though she was working a fully remote job, she was still a little intimated by taking fully online classes. Her kids walked her through some components of the online courses, like modules and discussion forms, and she got the hang of it quickly.
It wasn’t easy taking a full class load and working full time. “I’m not going to lie—it was tough.” Perez pulled several all-nighters but was extremely successful, making the dean’s list multiple times.
Job searching in the COVID-19 economy
In September of 2020, with only two months left of classes, Perez could see the finish line when, unexpectedly, she was laid off from her job. “It was devastating, but at the same time, it was a relief.” She was happy to have more time to spend in her schoolwork without worrying about balancing both.
She also started to job hunt. “With COVID and so many people unemployed, I didn’t know what to expect.” Perez got started on LinkedIn and uploaded her resume to other job sites. She was surprised but excited when she began to receive invitations to interview. “I was getting Zoom interviews right away, and I owe it all to education at Rasmussen,” she says.
She interviewed a lot, and even when she didn’t get the position, she thought about the experience as practice. When she went in to interview for her current job, they made her an offer on the spot. She accepted right away.
Perez now works as a revenue cycle billing specialist. She does auditing, payment posting and billing for two different healthcare facilities. “Right now, I just love where I’m at.”
Graduating in a pandemic
In April 2021, Perez celebrated her virtual graduation with a small gathering of a family members, organized by her sons. She gets teary-eyed thinking about graduating. “I don’t think I would be where I’m at today if I didn’t go back to school. I think I would still be unemployed or working until three in the morning transcribing.”
She encouraged anyone thinking about starting something new: “Go for it. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I couldn’t be more grateful.”