Our Instructor Spotlight is on our Phlebotomy Technician Academy instructor, Atoiah Stroud, CCMA. She works as a certified clinical medical assistant in Erlanger’s neurology department.
Marah: What professional experience do you have relating to the course you are teaching?
Atoiah: Twenty years ago, when I was studying to be a surgical tech, I took a phlebotomy course that I found to be very interesting. I ended up working as a phlebotomist for about five years at the Medical Center of Central Georgia. Then, I gained a lot of experience working as a CCMA in various doctors’ offices, from family medicine to gynecology.
Later, I ended up going to school at the University of Phoenix to get a bachelor’s degree in health administration. When I finished there, I moved to Chattanooga and applied for a CCMA position at Erlanger. After I got the job and had been working for about six months, they hired Dr. Jake McKay. He is an epileptologist, which is a doctor who mainly deals with seizures. They asked me if I would work as Dr. McKay’s CCMA, and I said yes! In this role, I assist Dr. McKay with different tasks, like drawing labs, scheduling appointments, and preparing patients for treatment.
M: What made you decide to become a teacher?
A: I wanted to give back to others. Sometimes, patients go to the doctor and don’t have great experiences. I wanted to share my knowledge with phlebotomy students and teach them how to treat patients in one-on-one settings. I want my students’ patients to leave their appointments having a good experience. Having worked in the medical field for over two decades, I have learned the importance of being able to adapt in any situation, make negative situations positive, and stay positive and professional, regardless of what is happening with a patient. I want to share with upcoming professionals how they can do the same.
M: Why do you love teaching?
A: I love teaching because I love seeing my students’ faces when they do their first lab draw. When a student first begins a course, they doubt themselves (understandably) because there is a lot of bookwork and fundamentals to learn. But then, they begin hands-on training…and the joy they have when they complete a successful stick brings me joy! I absolutely love seeing my students succeed, and I am their biggest cheerleader.
M: What is your teaching philosophy?
A: Communication is important. I communicate with students constantly, and they are always encouraged to communicate with me. I create group chats with students where we have open discussions. My students know they can ask me any question. I have an open-door policy!
I also believe it’s important to create a teacher-student relationship built on mutual respect and trust. If a student doesn’t trust their instructor, they won’t get much out of the course. If I give students respect, they inevitably give it back to me.
I also possess positive energy in the classroom. If there is negative energy, I tell my students to come talk to me so we can fix the problem. My students know they don’t have to have this discussion in front of everyone; I am always available after class.
M: What do you believe students will gain by taking your course? What are the goals you have for your students?
A: I want my students to be confident in themselves. The more confident they are in themselves, the less nervous they will be…which leads to them doing a wonderful job! A goal I have for my students is that they leave my class with the knowledge they need to succeed in both phlebotomy and all other aspects of life.
Confidence is the major key. If a phlebotomist is confident, they won’t go up to a patient with their hand shaking. They know they can have a successful stick because they have trained and worked hard. I want my students to take their knowledge and apply what they learn in their careers.
M: What kind of job opportunities are available to a phlebotomy tech student after completing the course?
A: Phlebotomists can work at donor centers, hospitals, medical offices, and laboratories. Because they can draw labs, they can also work as a patient care tech. There are several different routes a student can take, and regardless of what part of the medical field they are in, phlebotomy skills are always a plus to have.
M: How do you motivate students in your classroom?
A: Everyone learns differently. I like to ask my students: What makes you comfortable? How can I help you? What are you not understanding so we can try to learn it in a different way? I want to find the teaching method that fits each student best.
I also let students draw labs on me. It shows students not just through my words, but through my actions, that I believe in them and want to be their first stick. That extra effort goes a long way!
I like to challenge my students and ask them how I can help them set different goals. I don’t want them to stop setting goals after they finish the course. I like to ask them, “What else would you like to do when you finish the phlebotomy tech course?” I like to keep in touch with students after we finish the course to see how they are doing, both career and otherwise. I recently ran into my first set of students at Erlanger. They are doing well and love their jobs!
M: What is your favorite aspect/topic of your course to teach, and why?
A: I love teaching the bedside skills portion of the course. You’re not always going to get a perfect patient…sometimes, they are angry and aggravated. You have to stay pleasant regardless of how a patient is acting and put yourself in their shoes. They may be acting out because they have been waiting a long time to be treated while in pain. Learning how to handle these situations and how to have good bedside skills is extremely important. I tell my students to ask patients how their day is going and show that they care. That’s my favorite part of the lesson.
M: What are three fun facts about you?
- I love to cook! My children love my chicken and dressing, but I love to make breakfast food. I can eat that all day!
- I also love to crochet. I make hats, scarves, and recently, I made a blanket for my grandbaby. Crocheting relaxes me; it calms and soothes my mind.
- I am a huge fan of romance movies. One of my favorites is The Notebook, but I love all the Nicholas Sparks movies.
M: Is there anything else you would like to share?
A: Being a phlebotomist is fun! You get to meet new people every day, and it’s a skill you can use even if you go down a different medical career path. For example, if you were to be a CCMA, you would have phlebotomy skills you can use in that job, too. Come to the open house and learn more! You’ll love learning about the opportunities you’ll have as a phlebotomist and will want to take the class!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hi! My name is Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M). I am the Marketing Assistant for UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, I spend time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with our customer base. During my free time, you can find me getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, I aspire to live by the Mr. Feeny quote, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” I strive to use my passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around me.
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