Wow, it’s hard to believe that I’m already going into week twelve of the program. Time is definitely flying by! To date my cohort has completed four courses, with only one week remaining in the fifth. I’d like to talk about my classes so far, to give you an idea of what it’s like to be a CAT student at Stenberg College.
The program began on January 6th, with the entire first week delegated solely to orientation. My classmates and I were surprised and curious as to what we would spend our time on for five days. Surely one day of orientation is enough, right? Maybe for traditional cookie-cutter colleges but I’ve come to realize that Stenberg does things a little differently. Our first week was the perfect way to kick off an intensive program. I remember on the first day of school, we were warned that we should expect to do about six hours of homework a night, with daily or weekly exams. When I went home still smiling after hearing that, I knew I had made the right choice. Orientation week was led by Steve, who has a very refreshing and charismatic personality. We took self-profile tests to help us identify our weaknesses, strengths, and learning styles. We then wrote reports on how we would turn our biggest weakness –into our biggest strength. It was during this course when I first noticed how the instructors at Stenberg are genuinely interested in their students’ success. They want us to do well and it shows.
The next two weeks of the program were spent on Medical Terminology, the language of medicine. The CAT program is designed to be completed in a certain order, because each course becomes a prerequisite for the next one. A benefit to this system is the program starts out fairly straightforward and manageable. Medical Terminology is a health care beginner’s course based mainly on memorization. If you put in the time every day to learn the terms, you will succeed. My class was lucky enough to have Steve again for this course, who kept us on our toes with a test every single day. At first we all frowned at the idea, but after the majority of the class finished with a 100% course mark… well needless to say we were thankful.
Anatomy and Physiology (A&P for short) came next, which was supposedly the most challenging course of the entire year. Our instructors call it the “make it or break it” course. It was four weeks long and we continued writing an exam every day; only this time around the pace was substantially quicker and the material was a bit more difficult to obtain. Not only did we learn an entire unit in one day, but now we actually had to understand the different systems in the body and explain how they worked. Nonetheless, our CAT class prevailed and upheld our impressive class average. It certainly helped that Steve was still our instructor, so by this time we had all gotten to know each other a bit. As cliché as it may sound, he makes learning fun. We had people in the hallways poking their heads into the classroom to see what all the laughing was about. Steve also introduced us to the idea of celebrating the completion of each course with a class potluck!
After A&P, we spent one week in the computer lab working on our keyboarding skills and computer fundamentals. As someone who has been typing since she was old enough to know what a keyboard is (my father is a computer whiz) it was a much welcomed mental break. The only downside was because I went a week without studying for exams; I found it rather difficult to get back into the routine of spending my evenings with a textbook. What made matters worse, is the course to follow was the most mentally-strenuous to date; Cardiac Anatomy and Physiology. It’s also four weeks in duration and our instructor is Ramon, who not only has a wonderful sense of humour, but also worked as a Cardiology Technologist for many years. I have to say that Cardiac A&P makes the other courses seem “introductory,” bringing on a whole new set of challenges. The complexity of the material is both intimidating and fascinating. It’s through completing this course where I first encountered the undesirable side effects of being a college student. I’ve had those panic moments where you wonder if you’re really going to make it to the end. I’ve gone to bed at night when my brain literally aches from working it so hard, and I can see the stress on my face when I look in the mirror. Not only is the content level new territory, but the exams are something else. In fact, I just wrote one today that consisted of 70 marks all from short answer and lengthy explanations. Basically I had six pages of notes from class that I had to memorize and replicate onto the test paper. Before today, I don’t think I’ve ever written an exam with nothing but blank spaces. What’s incredible is before this program I never knew what I was capable of. Never did I think I could learn that much information in one night, retain it, and then write it all by memory the following day. I think what surprises me even more, is the fact that I am enjoying this new found discovery. I find amusement in stretching the limits of my abilities and building new skills. I can’t believe I’m going to say this—but I’m learning to actually enjoy studying!
All in all, at this stage in the game I am pleased with the progression and course material being taught. It’s all extremely relative to the career I’m working towards and every day I come home from school a little brighter than the day before; academically and otherwise.