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Sharon Calliham has found her passion in helping people. As a registered respiratory therapist working in home health, she gets to fuel that passion each day.
“I love the personal interaction with the patients,” she said. “They become part of my family.”
Calliham came to Piedmont Tech following a long career in textiles. As the jobs started to go, she knew she needed to find a new profession. She decided she needed to go back to school.
“Straight out of high school, I got married and worked in the cotton mill. I made good money and at the time, that’s what it was all about,” Calliham said. “It took me a little more time to realize that it was more serious than that to plan for the future.”
Calliham enrolled at Piedmont Tech in the surgical technology program. But she went a different direction after beginning her school work.
“Jerry Alewine was my medical terminology instructor,” she said. “He told me he thought Respiratory was something I might like and that he thought I could go further than what I was aiming for.”
"I love that I have the flexibility to make my own schedule and I don’t have to be in a hurry, which means I can spend more time with the patients."
Calliham changed her major and excelled at the program, even serving as a Presidential Ambassador. In January 2005, she was hired by Parrish Home Medical, a full six months before she graduated. The job provided extra training as she completed her degree and proved to be her calling.
“A hospital setting is so much more hectic” said Calliham. “I love that I have the flexibility to make my own schedule and I don’t have to be in a hurry, which means I can spend more time with the patients.”
Calliham gets to share her experiences with current Respiratory Care students. Parrish Home Medical serves as a clinical site for home health care instruction. Students travel with her two days a week and learn how to do patient assessments and how to set up the necessary equipment. Her advice to these students and anyone else thinking of entering the Respiratory Care program is to be prepared.
“Make sure you are serious about this because it’s not just a job,” she said. “It’s about having compassion for people.”