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October 15, 2020
It’s important to listen carefully for the sound of opportunity. Sometimes it’s just a slight murmur. A heart murmur. Piedmont Technical College (PTC) student Kevin Jones pays meticulous attention to heart sounds, monitors and the imaging equipment he is using while completing his clinical experience in invasive cardiovascular technology (CVT-I) at Self Regional Healthcare. And he doesn’t hesitate to speak up when he hears something of interest.
“I think you should be assertive in your school and clinical work,” said the 19-year-old from Greenwood. “The more you assert yourself, the more hands-on training you will get.”
That attitude doesn’t surprise his PTC instructor, Lena Scott. In Jones, she sees an individual who shares her own passion for the field. For Scott, it’s even personal. “So many people in my family have had health care issues, such as hypertension, that are related to CVT,” she said. “It really intrigued me, and I wanted to know more about it.”
Jones has his own reasons for choosing the field. He was stunned to learn the medical statistics and their impact on the health of people in this country.
“I chose CVT-I because heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States,” he said. I wanted to pick a field where I could use my compassion and knowledge to work directly on helping prevent and treat heart disease.”
PTC’s Cardiovascular Technology Program offers three academic paths: an associate in applied science in Adult Echocardiography, an associate in applied science in Cardiovascular Technology – Invasive, and a Vascular Sonography Certificate. “Echo” is the Latin prefix for “outside,” so Adult Echocardiography involves procedures using ultrasound, outside the body, Scott explained. CVT-Invasive involves using diagnostic instruments to explore arteries inside the body. Among a variety of procedures, the CVT-I assists in cardiac catheterizations.
“We work side-by-side with registered nurses, cardiologists, and respiratory therapists,” Scott said. “A lot of times, our students go back and get their RN degree and work in critical care, such as in an Intensive Care Unit or Emergency department.”
Jones is thriving during his clinical experience at Self. He felt confident that his classes at PTC prepared him well, and he continues to pick up new insights. “Ms. Scott is an amazing teacher. She is knowledgeable and always is willing to help. Of course, the learning continues past the classroom,” he said. “Situations can change very quickly when you are dealing with the heart. You have to be prepared for anything.”
At Self, Jones is finding kindred spirits on his unit and fitting in well.
“Almost everyone there has gone to Piedmont Tech at some point, in this same program,” he noted. “My co-workers are amazing people. The physicians are some of the finest people you will ever meet. … They make work enjoyable.”
Scott emphasizes to her students that they all are on a very personal journey that is unique to each of them. In fact, she is working on writing a book that may motivate and inspire students for years to come.
“I don’t feel like learning ever stops. I say ‘Go for it. You can do anything you put your mind to,’” she said. However, barriers such as discrimination, either by age or race or anything else, often can create barriers, both perceived and real, to personal success. She offered an example from her own experience with regard to age.
“There can be challenges with being young and being the most qualified person in the room, and young people get anxiety from that,” she explained. “It’s exhausting having to prove yourself over and over. Anxiety can drive hypertension. It influences our physical health.” Working with hypertensive patients, CVT students are acutely aware of the correlation.
Scott is determined to empower her students not just to study but to think critically, because making important decisions will be part of their jobs.
“A lot of times, students get used to learning information through memorization and then dumping it. I want them to apply their knowledge to something like a case study or a patient’s diagnosis,” she said. “I tell them, ‘Your career starts now, in this classroom. This isn’t just a subject to pass. It’s a career course. Everything you do in the clinical setting affects somebody.’”
For more information about PTC’s Cardiovascular Technology program, or to take a virtual tour, visit www.ptc.edu/cardio.
PHOTO: Kevin Jones at Self Regional Healthcare