After Years at Home, Medical Billing Student Finds New Purpose

Claudia Pena came to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 2017, seeking new opportunities for her sons, but after years of taking care of everyone else, Claudia finally decided to do something for herself and begin a new career in medical billing and coding.

Claudia has always stayed home to take care of her two sons, one of whom has down syndrome. When she and her husband moved to the U.S., she considered getting a job but found it was difficult in a new country, especially since she wanted to be able to stay home.

“I wanted to have a job here and I knew I could get hired at a fast food restaurant, but it is difficult to have an opportunity when you come from another country,” she said. “Even if you had another career there, it doesn’t matter here.”

As Claudia was searching online for a career she could do from home, Florida Career College came up on her search. She hadn’t considered going back to school as an adult, but when she reached out, it seemed like a good option. After a tour of the Pembroke Pines campus, she decided to enroll in the Medical Front Office and Billing program.

“It was a mix of excited and nervous,” she said. “I was nervous because my language is Spanish. I speak English because I’ve studied it since I was a little girl, but it’s not the same when you have to study. The other part of me was excited to study and meet people and learn new things. It was a big mix of nervous and exciting.”

Despite her nerves, Claudia enjoyed the learning. More than the content, she enjoyed feeling needed outside of her home. Throughout the program, Claudia gained all the skills necessary to do medical billing and insurance coding, but she also gained a new sense of self confidence.

“My normal responsibilities are for everyone else — my husband, my kids, my house,” she said. “The thing I didn’t like in the past is everyone thinks if you are at home, you are not doing anything. At home, you do a lot. Sometimes you do more than you do at a job. This program changed that for me. Every day you need to wake up, you need to change yourself, be with others. That’s amazing. You feel important. You feel like you’re doing something.”

Georgia Okoro, Claudia’s instructor, said Claudia was one of her best students.

“Claudia is a person that is very focused,” she said. “She wants to get everything done on time. She is very detailed. What I loved about her is she would even correct me on some things because she loves the details. She is very punctual. She has gotten perfect attendance and helps a lot in the classroom, not only with myself, but with her fellow classmates. She tends to help a lot with them. It is a great accomplishment, and for me, it’s a great benefit.”

Claudia still had to juggle being a mom and working to support her family, but the flexible schedule of Florida Career College made it possible, and Claudia’s enthusiasm pushed her through.

“I saw that I could make it. I took time for it. I wanted this,” she said. “It was something for me. It made me think more about myself first. If I want to give to others, I need to be good to myself. I was not giving me the attention I deserved.”

At the end of her externship, Claudia was hired. 

“It feels so rewarding. I feel awesome,” she said. “I encourage anyone who is nervous to study again to do it. It is very rewarding. Don’t be scared. You can make it. If I did it, everyone can do it.”