When Gabe Dang decided to go back to school, choosing a college was easy. Dang had previously been a student in Howard Community College’s (HCC) culinary program before transferring to earn a bachelor’s degree in food service. But it was after an emergency room visit for a minor sports injury, that Dang was inspired to make a switch to the health care field. “I researched different options, but I chose HCC because I knew the high quality of instructors and programs available,” says Dang.
Dang enrolled in the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Patient Care Technician (PCT) courses. “It was best experience I ever had at HCC—grueling but really rewarding,” says Dang. “The instructors were fantastic. In addition to the clinical skills, they taught teamwork, which is a vital part of working in health care.”
The courses helped prepare him for the 12-hour shifts he started working at Howard County General Hospital. Dang began working as a PCT in mid-March 2020, right when the coronavirus pandemic was hitting hard. “Experts were quickly learning about the new coronavirus, so policies and procedures guidelines changed every 24 hours,” he says. “It was 100 percent trial by fire, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.” As a PCT, Dang was sent to different areas within the hospital that needed more help. Dang describes the atmosphere during the height of Covid-19 as one of “controlled chaos.”
His HCC instructors prepared him well, both mentally and physically. “Our instructor taught us ways to manage and cope with stress,” he says. “She drilled into us important skills like knowing how to maintain sterility to prevent infection, properly prepare materials for each procedure, to be accountable for yourself and to expect accountability from others. I learned to think about what I may need to do each day, and to adapt the unexpected — learning the needs of each patient and the minute details of their required cared. She taught me good habits that have really helped me be successful at my job.”
Dang attributes the clinical part of the training for teaching him how to build a level of trust between the patients and the care giver. “We worked with the same people for a week and had a continuity of care and gained a sense of humanity,” he says.
HCC set him up for success in the health care industry, says Dang. His long-term plan is to train to be a physician assistant and work in a shock trauma unit. “Health care is very rewarding. I like intense fast-paced environments,” he says. “Come to think of it, my experience in the culinary field had that too.”
Wherever you want to go, you can get there from here.