Launching careers: BCTC instructor blends passions teaching medicine
After working in the healthcare field for about 24 years, Lin Caldwell decided she wanted to teach, too.
Now, Caldwell is in her third quarter teaching a phlebotomy certification class. She is currently in the midst of teaching a course at the Bluegrass Community and Technical College Winchester-Clark County campus.
“Teaching has always been a passion of mine,” she said.
Since phlebotomy is what she knows best, teaching phlebotomy certification classes seemed like the perfect fit, she said.
Caldwell said she started out teaching about five students in her first class and now has a class of about 10. Students must take 160 hours of a lecture course — which Caldwell teaches — as well as 180 hours of clinicals.
“You are going to get certified by taking this phlebotomy course, which is what a lot of people aren’t aware of,” she said. “…It’s actually to begin your career.”
Caldwell is from Louisville but moved to the Central Kentucky region about 10 years ago. She worked as a phlebotomist at Labcorp and started her career as a medical lab technologist in Lexington
The main reason Caldwell wanted to transition into teaching part-time was that she wanted to inspire others with her story.
“I was a teen mom and never had to be on welfare, never had to do any of that,” she said. “And I said if I could do it, I just want to encourage other single moms that they can do it as well.”
She said she didn’t just want to work a job. She wanted a career.
“Because I did that, I just wanted to let other women know that they can do it too,” Caldwell said. “So I just started that way.”
Caldwell said she was particularly interested in teaching the trade because not everyone can afford a four-year university, not everyone can get an associate’s, but many people can afford to learn a trade, get certified and work themselves up.
“I just wanted to be able to give (my students) something that they could feel proud about,” she said.
With teaching higher education, Caldwell said her most important task is making sure her students are ready for the professional world.
“It is a great feeling to know that I have put people in the healthcare industry, and I know that I have made them professional enough to begin their healthcare career,” she said.
Caldwell said she works with students of all ages. She said she gets students who are her age, too.
“As long as they’re disciplined enough to understand professionalism and as long as they’re disciplined enough to do the work,” she said.
Caldwell said she teaches a speed course, so students have to be prepared for the condensed time to complete a semester’s worth of work. She said students learn about anatomy, physiology, medical terminology and more.
Because phlebotomists interact with various departments, they have to learn a wide range of terminology and concepts to care for their patients appropriately.
Caldwell said she not only makes sure her students do the reading, but she also presents them with real-life scenarios that she has had from her experiences in the field.
“I do find students do appreciate it and learn from it a lot better knowing real life circumstances,” she said.
Caldwell said since she was a young girl she bounced between wanting to be a teacher and wanting to be a nurse.
Eventually, she settled on nursing school, but while working as a CNA (certified nursing assistant), she met a phlebotomist who opened up that sector of the healthcare industry to her.
Now, Caldwell said she’d come full circle, blending her passion for the healthcare industry and teaching.
“I would like to start my own school if I could,” she said. “That’s how much it means to me.”
Caldwell said she wants her students to find success, whether it ends up being in a phlebotomy career or something different.
“This might not be the career for you,” she said. “I’d never encouraged phlebotomy as your career, but at least it’s an opportunity for me to say whatever it is that you feel like you can do, you can do.”
And whatever it is, you have to commit, Caldwell said.
“Teaching is probably where I plan on retiring,” she said. “It doesn’t pay a lot. But like I said, it is the most rewarding.”