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Former Receptionist Makes Her Way to the Operating Room

Carlene Carlson's career had hit a roadblock until a career counselor showed her an alternate path to the operating room

After answering phones at Kaiser Permanente for nine years, Carlene Carlson was feeling stuck. She tried to move into a patient care position but had been unsuccessful at making the leap.

But in fall 2007, Carlson sought help from a KP career counselor. Within months, she had started a whole new career.

"Where I didn't think I could get help—I got help," Carlson said.

No experience, no job

Carlson had completed a surgical technologist program before connecting with the counselor, but hadn't been able to land a position in the operating room without experience. Six months after she completed the program, her certificate had expired because she wasn't working as a surgical tech.

"It was very frustrating," said Carlson, a member of the Steelworkers union, Local 7600. "I had worked as a receptionist for so many years because I love Kaiser Permanente. Nine years is a long time and I didn't want to lose that, but I would have been forced to leave if I didn't find a new job."

Career counselor Michele DeRosa advised Carlson to shift gears and aim for a position in sterile processing—a job that would get her the experience she needs to one day move up and become a surgical tech. DeRosa pointed Carlson to KP's sterile processing class.

Carlene Carlson

Where I didn't think I could get help—I got help.

Carlene Carlson
Sterile Processing

An assist and success


Carlson began the three-month long class in January 2008. When she finished, DeRosa helped her craft her resume and prepare for interviews. Within a month, Carlson landed a sterile processing position at Kaiser Permanente Fontana (Southern California).

"I could not be happier in this job," Carlson said. "I like doing something different and being challenged every day."

She has a job she loves. When she's ready, she'll be well prepared for the next step up the career ladder. The best part, she said, is that she can offer her son a better life and is showing him how a person can advance in their career.

"I have a responsibility to my son and I want to be a good example for him," Carlson said. "It's hard being single and not making enough money. And it's frustrating because you want to buy your child things that you didn't have. With the (career) counseling, I have a little more of a cushion—and a positive outlook."

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