INA, Ill. (Jan. 23, 2017) – It’s not often new opportunities land at your feet, but for one Rend Lake College graduate, volunteering to participate in the first cooperative experience for the Office Systems Technology (OFTC) program has led to the start of a new career.
Domenick Bullock of Benton started attending RLC in 2013 with a focus on the OFTC program. Before the program’s curriculum was updated last year, OFTC concentrated solely on office managerial and assistant aspects, but last fall, several new associate and certificate options became available that Bullock promptly took advantage of.
Sarah Bilderbeck, OFTC Associate Professor, said new and improving technologies were the catalysts for updates to the program’s curriculum.
“These programs are similar to what was offered before, but due to evolving technology and the changing role of an administrative assistant, the curriculum needed some adjusting,” said Bilderbeck. “Technology in the workplace is woven throughout every semester of the curriculum.”
Specifically, the creation of several options in the medical field spoke to Bullock on a personal level. With the inspiration of his grandmother spending her professional career as an emergency room nurse, Bullock said the chance to break into the industry as well was clear cut.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the medical field and the coding side too,” said Bullock. “Sarah encouraged me to keep going and to get everything.”
And by everything, Bullock means he worked for three years to earn two associate degrees in Medical Office Specialist and Office Systems Technology Specialist and three certifications: Office Technologies Assistant, Microsoft User Certificate, and Office Assistant. He did it all while making appearances on several Vice Presidents’ Honors lists for a high grade point average.
“It was a lot of work and the medical side of the program really gave me a lot of experience,” he said. “When I started at the hospital, I knew what they were talking about. That helped me when I got into the internship.”
The internship is just one of many cooperative experiences for students at RLC, albeit the newest. Bullock was the first to test the waters between the OFTC program and SSM Health Good Samaritan, and he says he hopes he isn’t the last.
“I went there once a week and sat with different departments for about eight hours each time. I learned about third-party liability, main registration, the cashier station, scheduling and pre-registration, and emergency room registration,” said Bullock. “It lasted five weeks, one day a week. We’re required to get 240 hours of experience for the program, and I already did that, so I did the cooperative experience as a volunteer.”
Earlier this month, Bullock became the newest member of Patient Access at SSM Health Good Samaritan in Mt. Vernon as a scheduler and pre-registrar. Though each day is different, his responsibilities will include answering phone calls, scheduling patients for appointments, registering patients for those scheduled appointments, and assuring that the patient’s paperwork is completed prior to their date of service.
He said of the department, “I really liked Patient Access. They helped me learn new things. It’s a newer department and every day is a different task. This department works for two different hospitals, so I won’t even have the same patients every day. Ultimately, I hope it builds into something else. My goal is to go back to get my bachelor’s degree and become a supervisor.”
The cooperative experience opportunity presented itself to Bilderbeck last year when a previous graduate and SSM Health Good Samaritan employee, Kristi Rapp of Waltonville, began coordinating between the company and the college.
“If it hadn’t been for Kristi reaching out to me last summer about setting up an internship like this for my students, this whole experience might have never become a possibility,” said Bilderbeck. “A simple idea has evolved into so much more now thanks to Kristi.”
She continued, “Domenick is our first student to go through this process, but he has proven that hard work, dedication, and passion for your future career can lead to anything. Kristi’s idea and my input might have gotten him through the doors, but he is the one that is responsible for getting an interview and landing an offer for a full-time position.”
Bullock said much of what he learned during the cooperative experience originated with learning from those already working at SSM Health Good Samaritan, an invaluable resource.
“At first, I was overwhelmed but I suggest everyone in the [OFTC] program take advantage of the experience and make sure to take notes. You learn a lot,” he said. “It was a very good experience. It prepared me for the workforce in a way that classes didn’t and I couldn’t have done it without everyone at SSM Health and Sarah.”
Bilderbeck also suggests students take advantage of the cooperative experience to give them a leg up on future job prospects.
“This opportunity will allow my students to showcase their skills at SSM Health while in a cooperative experience position and then possibly be given the opportunity to apply for full-time employment based on their performance during the co-op,” explained Bilderbeck. “Up to this point my graduates had to apply for full-time employment at SSM Health upon graduating and hope that their application would catch someone's eye and persuade them to call in my students for an interview.”
Bilderbeck added many of her OFTC Medical Office graduates are interested in working at a local hospital, and this cooperative experience might open more doors for those students to experience something they would not have thought of before.
“By offering this experience to incoming OFTC students, I believe it will motivate many of them to excel in all of their classes so they can possibly be given this opportunity to be chosen to complete their cooperative experience with SSM Health,” said Bilderbeck. “Their work ethics, personality, drive, and professional skill level will ultimately be what presents them with the opportunity for full-time employment.”
Stacy Manger of SSM Health’s PAS Onsite Multisite expressed her enthusiasm to work with RLC and OFTC students on behalf of SSM Health.
“We at Patient Access are so excited for this opportunity to participate with RLC and Sarah on this program. For us it is a win-win,” said Manger.
To learn more about the OFTC program and the cooperative experience, contact Sarah Bilderbeck at 618-437-5321, Ext. 1754 or [email protected].