In recognition of National Health Education Week (Oct. 18-22), the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) celebrates its Health Pathway students’, graduates’, staff, and faculty members’ hard work and contributions to the region’s healthcare workforce. Encompassing credit degree programs like Nursing, EMS, Medical Lab Technology (MLT), and more, and continuing education workforce training certificates in a variety of specialties like Phlebotomy, CNA/GNA, and ECG/EKG Technicians, the Health Pathway at CSM is a broad swath of medical training for a number of different in-demand careers. Some students start their careers while still in college, some complete two years with CSM and advance their education with certifications at CSM; while medical assistants and phlebotomists can get certified in a matter of weeks or months.
Christian Carston Plans to Work Toward Equity in Healthcare
For Christian Carston, of Waldorf, his choice to study nursing at CSM was motivated in part by a desire to recommit to his education, as well as his determination to work in a field where he can ensure communities with people of color have equal access to quality health care – a mission inspired by CSM’s Nursing Pathway instructors.
“Consistent with the college’s vision, the nursing program strives to be the region’s first choice for accessible, inclusive, and innovative nursing education,” confirmed CSM Nursing Chair Sara Cano. “Our nursing program is dedicated to decreasing healthcare disparities through the development of a strong, diverse nursing workforce and we are proud of the diversity in our nursing program which is consistent with the demographics of the Southern Maryland area and exceeds national data regarding the nursing workforce.”*
“After taking a few years off from attending school out-of-state, I found my way to the College of Southern Maryland to complete my degree,” shared Carston. “CSM has afforded me the opportunity to become a more focused student while managing my other responsibilities outside of education. My experience with CSM has been a phenomenal one. I truly appreciate the community at CSM. From the staff to the professors, whenever I have needed assistance there was always at least one person willing to lend a helping hand.”
Like many CSM students, Carston has endured hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have experienced many challenges during my time at CSM, from losing my job due to the COVID-19 pandemic to my son being diagnosed with autism. Yet I have been able to remain committed to my goal of finishing my associate’s degree here at CSM. This is only possible because of the flexibility CSM allows for students, especially non-traditional students such as myself. The last several semesters I have been able to take courses completely online which makes managing a full-time job and parenting a toddler much more manageable. I have also found a great support system in the Men of Excellence group at CSM.”
Carston said he plans to graduate from CSM with honors and finish his bachelor’s of science at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.
“From there I look forward to working in my community as an emergency room nurse and ultimately a flight nurse,” he said. “My main focus in life is to continue making my education a priority and to serve as a role model for my son so he understands that his dreams and goals are possible.”
CSM Alumna Kayla Carlyle, of Upper Marlboro, is working full time as a veterinary technician while pursuing her degree in CSM’s MLT program. Carlyle said she wants to become everything the MLT program will allow her to become, including microbiologist, hematologist, blood banker, virologist, parasitologist, with expertise in clinical urinalysis, body fluids, and biochemistry.
“I have been fortunate to have found the ability to tie what I have learned in the classroom regarding blood banking and transfusion medicine to help animals at work as I am in the process of helping to start an animal blood bank to bring safer blood transfusions to pets,” Carlyle said. “Although I am studying human medicine, I have been inspired to do this work in veterinary medicine as I have a foot in both worlds.”
Carlyle also holds an AA in Business Administration from CSM (’17), serves the region as a Nationally-Registered Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and is a musician.
“CSM has changed my life,” she said. “The professors are genuinely amazing and inspiring to me. Over the years, I have participated in the [Student Government Association], I have utilized professor’s office hours on numerous occasions, and I love the new CSM coffee shop and library.”
But it’s CSM’s MLT program that Carlyle has her eyes set on today.
“I have finally found a passion for clinical laboratory science and pathology and have recently decided to embark and commit to one day attend medical school in hopes of becoming a pathologist. Without this program and CSM, I do not think I would have ever been able to find my passion let alone the courage to become a STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] student as I come from a non-STEM background. On completion of this program in May 2022, I will be able to work as a clinical laboratory scientist while I transfer to George Washington University to complete a bachelor’s degree.”
Lynn Williams said her passion for learning ignited in 1990 when she earned her GED [general education certificate]. Some 24 years later, the Leonardtown resident received her associate degree in Human Services from CSM … and just kept going.
“After I completed my associate degree at CSM in 2014, I immediately transferred to what’s now UMGC [University of Maryland Global Campus],” she explained. “I graduated magna cum laude with my bachelor’s degree in just over two years of study, and I knew I wanted to continue furthering my education.”
In May of 2021, Williams achieved her master’s degree in Health Psychology, graduated summa cum laude, and was a candidate for valedictorian of her graduating class. Because of her roots at CSM, she knew that “learning is lifelong,” and working at CSM as a Clinical Placement Coordinator and Adjunct Psychology Professor allowed her to do what she really wanted to do: “Ignite and cultivate a passion for lifelong learning in my own students.”
“I really identify with my students as a coordinator and professor because I too have a lot of experience in learning to juggle family, work, and school among other unexpected challenges,” said Williams.
To prepare for her first few classes this year, she said she immersed herself in research to understand the issues facing today’s healthcare students. Within that research, she shared, students pursuing health science programs were found to have an increased amount of stress and anxiety, compared to other students in all other non-health related programs.
“From what I’ve read, it appears that today’s healthcare students are prone to double the stress as both a college student and on the front lines in clinical rotations, even more so in comparison to other healthcare workers,” she shared. “Add in the pandemic and it’s sometimes three major stressors for our students (college, front line worker, and pandemic).”
The research fueled Williams’ passion.
“My ultimate goal is to be a part of bridging the gap between psychological and physical health in academics and as an alternative healthcare practitioner,” said Williams. “Health Psychology was already becoming an increasingly sought out degree program, but the demand has increased since COVID. There is great support for the challenges that face our students in the Health Pathway at CSM and I am proud to work with like-minded colleagues and other professors who strive to teach our students to practice self-care as rigorously as they practice patient care.”
*According to a 2017 National Nursing Workforce Study conducted by the National Council State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), 19.2% of Registered Nurses (RN) are from minority backgrounds. At the time of the study, the RN population was comprised of 80.8% White/Caucasian, 6.2% African American 7.5% Asian, 5.3% Hispanic, 1.7% two or more races,?0.4% American Indian/Alaskan Native, 0.5% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander,?and 2.9% other nurses.
“CSM’s nursing program is a competitive admission’s program of which the top 72 applicants are admitted each semester,” Cano explained. “Of those CSM students, almost 40% are from minority backgrounds. Current nursing student population data indicate 59.5% White/Caucasian, 13.5% African American, 8.1% Asian, 10.8% Hispanic, 6.8% two or more races, 0% American Indian/Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and 1.4% unknown.”