Patricia Reay, a single mom with four kids, currently works as a Certified Medical Assistant for St. Luke’s Health System. While she has worked in several industries, Reay has always wanted to help others through the medical field. She was a volunteer EMS for 12 years at three departments in the Blaine County, Idaho area: Wood River Fire & Rescue, Hailey Fire Department and Carey Rural Fire.
Reay is no stranger to picking a new path — she entered college at 32 years old to pursue her associate’s degree. During that journey, Reay was thankful that she could show her children that picking a new career path is possible.
“After I got my AAS in emergency medicine, I was a volunteer in my small community for close to 10 years,” said Patricia Reay. “I believe that everyone in those types of crews makes an impact every day, whether they know it or not.”
During the decade after she completed her Associate of Applied Science, Reay saw some significant life changes and a battle with cancer. When she was ready for a change and decided to go back to school for her bachelor’s degree, her children immediately supported their mom’s next adventure.
Making education attainable
Reay has a passion for helping others and an interest in medicine, but it was a particularly bad day that prompted a change.
“I was like, ‘I have to do something different. Either this is my life and I’m going to deal with it, or I’m going to make a change,’” said Reay. “I’m not one of those people who just goes ‘oh, well.’ If I can change it, then I’m going to change it.”
She started making inquiries at the College of Southern Idaho, where she completed her Associate of Applied Science, to help guide her next step.
The College of Southern Idaho staff recommended a few programs, but Boise State Online made an impression.
“Boise State was incredible. You guys got back to me, and from start to finish it was, ‘How can we help you become what you want, talk to us about your dreams, your wants, your goals and how we can help you achieve them?’ It was constant support,” said Reay.
“It became an attainable thing — it became this thing I can absolutely accomplish,” she continued. “I’m just more impressed about how many people I have in my corner. It doesn’t feel like it’s their job to help me.”
“I’m just more impressed about how many people I have in my corner. It doesn’t feel like it’s their job to help me.” — Patricia Reay
Bachelor of Applied Science: a perfect fit
For Reay, the easiest way to utilize her Associate of Applied Science and stay in the medical field was the Boise State Online Bachelor of Applied Science program.
The versatility and ability to customize her degree path were aspects that spoke to Reay. With four kids, picking up and moving to finish school was not realistic.
“With an online program, I can advance myself and still give my children what they need. That’s the perfect thing for me,” said Reay. “I can’t believe more people aren’t doing it; I mean, it’s right there at the click of a mouse.”
Reay is no stranger to a busy schedule. She regularly works more than 50 hours a week and manages her family. Support and flexibility were crucial elements to her success in a bachelor’s degree program. But, Reay explains, flexibility is essential for adult learners with more than just a busy schedule.
“It’s not just busy; it’s living your life,” Reay said. “This is your ability to pay bills, make it to your daughter’s recital or basketball game or your son’s soccer game; it’s your ability to continue being an active participant in your life while improving it.”
“This is your ability to pay bills, make it to your daughter’s recital or basketball game or your son’s soccer game; it’s your ability to continue being an active participant in your life while improving it.” — Patricia Reay
The online applied science program’s flexibility allows Reay to access courses on her time — whether it’s early mornings as she’s getting ready, during her lunch hour or after family time in the evening.
Online learning support and success
The support Reay felt while entering the applied science program didn’t stop when she enrolled in classes.
During her BAS 305: Introduction to Applied Science course, Reay began to feel frustrated. She was confused about what the assignment asked of her and how it pertained to her. After sending what Reay called “an incredibly snarky email,” she was amazed by the near-immediate response back from her instructor. Not only did Reay’s instructor offer to walk her through how to do the assignment, but her instructor also offered to meet on her schedule.
After connecting with her instructor on a Zoom video call, Reay was able to fully understand the assignment, what she needed to do and why.
“My instructor broke it down for me so I could understand,” Reay said. “Maybe I should have reached out before I hit that point, but I needed that. It re-inspired me not to quit. Because I was frustrated and they took the time, it has encouraged me.”
Education makes an impact from the start
Although Reay won’t graduate until 2022, she already sees the influence her education has on her children and how education has changed her everyday life.
Achieving her associate’s degree allowed Reay to become an active helper within her community and demonstrated to her children that pursuing your dreams doesn’t have an age limit.
When Reay started at Boise State for her bachelor’s degree a decade after completing her associate’s, her children became active supporters. Her children took an active role in helping their mom succeed — from proofreading papers to listening to Reay read aloud from her textbook.
Reay’s education isn’t just changing family activities; it provides knowledge, helps solve conflicts and brings a change in mindset.
“In the program, we take an integrative learning course, and it will flip your thinking on your head in the best possible way. It stops you from choosing between two bad decisions and allows you to look for more options. If you can’t find them, it helps you create new options.” said Reay. “The knowledge that you’re gaining just starts to overflow in wonderful ways into your regular life.”
The skills Reay has learned also include a better knowledge of computers. Reay’s experience goes deeper than just learning how to work a specific system and an order of buttons to click. Reay has also witnessed how the things she has learned have improved her work performance, like helping coworkers fix things, de-escalating conflicts and making suggestions for improvements.
The best part about learning new things is sharing it with others.
“When you want to know something, you teach it,” said Reay. “An integrative and progressive person isn’t someone who holds the information just so they look awesome; it’s someone who shares the information so we all look awesome.”
While pursuing her goals and overcoming hardships, Reay has found inspiration in her children and hopes that she is and continues to be an inspiration to them.
“The one thing that came up when I went through cancer that kept me moving was that the children are watching,” said Reay. “That mantra has stayed with me for the last six years, and I make decisions based on the fact that my children are watching. What am I teaching them, what am I showing them and what am I going to perpetuate in the next generation by my actions?”
Reay’s love of working in medicine and desire to help others has inspired a new direction. While her original goal was to become a Registered Nurse, Reay’s advisor’s encouragement has guided her to think bigger. With the support of her advisor, Reay is setting her trajectory towards medical school and her dream job.
“It’s so incredible that there is something like this for someone like me,” said Reay. “I get to do it, and all it takes is my time and my effort, and the time is going to pass anyway.”
“It’s so incredible that there is something like this for someone like me.” — Patricia Reay
-Story by Erin Taylor for Boise State Online