Most of her life, Nikki Martin recalls being fascinated by blood — its life-sustaining properties, the ease at which it flows, and how it turns from blue to bright red when it mixes with oxygen outside the body.
“When people would take my blood, they thought it was really weird that I wanted to watch,” she said. “It’s not something that made me sick or uncomfortable. I know it sounds weird, but I was just drawn to blood.”
It wasn’t until she reached her late-30s, though, that Nikki considered this interest could translate into a career. To that point, her adult life had been consumed by two things: making ends meet and caring for aging family members.
“I was getting older, and I could see where my body was starting to break down,” Nikki said. “I felt like I wanted to be a phlebotomist because of my fascination with blood, and so I started contacting schools.”
On her list was Florida Career College (FCC) in Orlando. While FCC doesn’t offer a full phlebotomy program, Nikki was immediately attracted to its Medical Assistant Technician (MAT) program — a program from which she graduated in the fall of 2017.
It’s her FCC education, combined with an insatiable work ethic and a passion for helping others that Nikki credits for her current success as a supervisor and administrator at two Orlando medical clinics: People’s Medical Center and COVID Testing LLC.
Finding a Second Chance at FCC
Nikki dropped out of high school and entered the full-time workforce at the age of 16. A job at AT&T Wireless was paying her good money, and school … well, it wasn’t really her cup of tea at that time in her life.
“I hated school. That’s the easiest way of saying it,” she said. “Plus, I just never knew what I wanted to do with my life. So, when I was younger, it was just work, work, work to support myself and my family.”
Nikki eventually found she could make even more money as a server, so that’s what she did through her 20s and into her 30s. It was around this time that her focus changed. Her family needed her in other ways.
“I started taking care of my grandparents, who were both in poor health,” she said. “It was a handful, and I didn’t do much of anything else — just some data entry and occasionally delivering for a flower shop.”
Due to her strong love and commitment to family, time was no longer something she could take for granted. Yet, rather than let these sacrifices suffocate her, Nikki said it helped her prioritize. It also awakened her desire for a career in helping others.
Nikki started a new life upon the passing of her grandfather and relocation of her grandmother to an assisted living facility. It was now her time to earn her diploma through FCC’s M program.
Drawn to a Medical Assistant Career
Looking back, Nikki said she most appreciates all the hands-on training she was able to get through FCC’s Medical Assistant Technician program. Not a “book person,” Nikki said the education and training from such instructors as Mr. Pa’tes and Dr. Suri fit her personal style of learning.
“Both were amazing teachers that expected a lot from us and made sure we knew everything we’d need to know before going out in the world,” she said.
Along with the counseling and advice she got from her career services, Nikki continually felt the instructors and staff truly cared about her education and her future.
“They were absolutely amazing,” she said. “They were always there to listen and talk to me about anything. I knew I could go and speak to them if I had any issues.”
“Nikki was determined to complete her program and achieve employment in her field of study. She not only advanced in her career, but also wanted to help her fellow classmates by identify opportunities,” said Edward Tordesillas, Director of Career Services at FCC Orlando.
FCC also helped guide her toward earning her high school diploma, which she achieved while she was taking regular courses.
In the end, the commitment, hard work, instruction and advice paid off. Soon after graduating in 2017, Nikki got her first job: doing allergy testing for an Orlando-based company.
Now Hiring Others
Today, she’s an Allergy Supervisor with People’s Medical Center. She also holds an additional position in the allied health field as Patient Advocate/Medical Assistant for COVID Testing LLC. Together, these positions rely on her to hire and train staff, manage customer service, and oversee billing and insurance issues … among many other things.
Doing this has allowed her to stay in touch with FCC and its students, especially when fulfilling staffing needs. She’s personally hired two FCC graduates at People’s Medical Center, and she’s helped facilitate the hiring of several others at COVID Testing LLC.
“I consider myself lucky to be in a position to help people and better people’s lives,” Nikki said. “I didn’t take the fastest route to get here, but I’m glad I chose the path I chose. And, I don’t consider that I work a day in my life because I love getting up and going to work.”
“Nikki’s story is inspiring and it is a delight when we see her back on campus to recruit fellow FCC graduates. We are proud of her for the success she has worked so hard to achieve,” said Robert Adler, FCC Regional Vice President of Operations.