Tabitha Spivey is employed at Riverside after spending the spring 2020 semester at Thomas Nelson working toward a phlebotomy technician certificate.
Two health issues, one she overcame and one a relative continues to fight, are among the reasons Tabitha Spivey wants to become an ultrasound technician.
The first came almost 10 years ago, when a cyst was discovered in Spivey’s chest. Luckily, ultrasound results revealed it was not cancer.
“That personal experience right there made me open my eyes to the field itself, and (then) the relief I felt after I found out it was just a cyst and not cancer,” she said.
The other health issue involves one of her grandfathers, who has had more than half-a-dozen major strokes.
“I would really like to learn more and be able to help him improve,” she said. “Honestly, I really want to be a part of the research. … to help find different cures so we can be able to catch things sooner as opposed to later.”
To reach that goal, she’s working to become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, where she will perform, read and interpret sonograms and ultrasounds.
“I’m kind of that nerdy, geeky type that I like science no matter what it is. And technology is so cool,” she said.
Spivey still needs to complete some hands-on work at Thomas Nelson to earn her certificate as a phlebotomy technician. She said that should be done this summer.
“It’s one of my stepping stones in my ultimate goal,” she said.
She hopes to be accepted into the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program at Tidewater Community College. She has applied, taken some pre-requisites and had an interview. Next is an essay due July 1.
“Then I’ll hear back,” she said. “Everything is up in the air right now (because of the COVID-19 pandemic).”
In the meantime, she’s gotten a job as a phlebotomy technician in the emergency department at Riverside Regional Medical Center. (Not all places require a certificate or degree to get hired.)
“What we do is process the blood samples and specimens, then we send it to the main lab,” she said. “If there’s a major trauma, then we run blood for that. That’s interesting to be able to help.”
It’s often busy, with a lot going on, but she’s used to that. In 2018, she enrolled at Tidewater Community College, so this past spring she was attending classes there and at Thomas Nelson. In addition, she was working part-time as a veterinarian assistant.
“This is my first term off, this summer. And it’s not really off,” she said.
She took some online classes at Thomas Nelson a few years ago, so she was familiar with the College when she decided to enroll in the phlebotomy program for spring 2020.
“Thomas Nelson was really good to me,” she said. “They told you every step of the way what you needed to do.”
She said everyone has been great, but built a special relationship with instructor Tracy Richardson.
“She’s been amazing, amazing,” Spivey said. “From day one, they have told us exactly what we needed to do … ‘OK, you need to start making your health-care resume today, your first day of class. And this is what you need to put on it.’
“Nobody gives you that,” she said.
That wasn’t all. Richardson tells all her students they can use her as a reference, which Spivey did.
“That’s a big part of me getting this position at Riverside,” Spivey said. “She’s been so supportive and right there every step of the way.”
Richardson, who has been teaching at Thomas Nelson for four years and has worked at Riverside for six following 14 with Sentara, downplays her role.
“I just gave her the recommendation she deserves,” Richardson said. “Tabitha's work ethic was evident that she has the heart and determination to work in the medical field. Her drive to reach goals was clear day one.”
As with many Thomas Nelson students, Spivey returned to school after some time away.
“I ended up having my daughter (young), so coming out of high school, I finished my first semester of my senior year and then walked away,” she said. “That wasn’t the smartest move but …”
She eventually earned a high school diploma (from Warwick High School) in 2018 through Penn Foster online. Before enrolling in college, she worked for a credit union in Newport News for seven years, then for a local private accountant, but soon discovered taxes weren’t for her. With a nudge from her husband, she enrolled at TCC.
“I can’t sit at a desk in front of a computer all day,” she said.
She admits the age gap, she’s in her early 30s, was a little intimidating at first. She soon learned there were others her age and older in class.
“It helped give me some form of encouragement. I’m not too old to learn,” she said.
The learning aspect really excites her. She remembers when she was pregnant, her daughter is now 12, and can’t believe the changes in the medical field. When discussing the equipment entrusted to her at Riverside, she sounds like a kid on Christmas morning.
“Some of the instruments I get to use at Riverside now are mind-blowing,” she said. “Technology is ever-changing and improving, so is our knowledge and education on how the body works.”
She also knows the learning never ends.
“I was telling my husband I’ve done a lot of schooling since 2018 … and I get into Riverside and I’m stilling learning so much, so fast,” she said. “At first it’s like they’re speaking French to you. But it’s really an amazing venture. I wish I had started it sooner, but had to live life first a little bit.”
Richardson is certain Spivey made the right decision going into the medical field.
“She possesses the talents that the health care code was built on,” Richardson said. “I do believe that Tabitha will have tremendous success in her career.”