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Penny Shines: Heritage Health Medical Assistant Overcomes Tough Circumstances

Monday, December 17, 2018   (0 Comments)
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By Marc Stewart, Heritage Health

 

 

Adversity doesn’t slow Penny Smith down. 

She embraces life’s challenges with a bright smile and a positive attitude. Even when things are bad. 

 


Penny Smith never planned on becoming homeless, it just happened.  About 12 years ago, her marriage disintegrated, and she found herself living on the streets with her three young children. With her life on the skids, she was scared and ill-prepared to join the workforce.

“I was a stay-at-home mom and I had done a few fast food-type jobs, but that was it,” said Smith. “I knew I wanted something more for myself and my kids.”

 

In those dark moments, Penny found an inner strength to improve her life. The North Idaho native was drawn to the medical field, primarily because she had always been intrigued by caregivers for her family members.


“I knew it was something I wanted to do,” she said. “I wanted to help people.”


Penny has been helping people at Heritage Health the last four years. She loves her job and strives to be the best she can be every day. 


“Penny is one of our stars,” said CEO Mike Baker. “She truly brings her best self every day to ensure our patients are treated with dignity and respect.”


She plans on continuing her education and she hopes to be a registered nurse in the future.
“I am hooked on this profession,” she said. “Making people feel better is an amazing feeling. I love seeing patients every day.”


Penny earned her American Association of Medical Assistants certification in February 2017. She studied at Carrington College.


Given the shortage of Medical Assistants in the region, North Idaho College, a local community college, is partnering with Heritage Health and other providers to deliver education to students. 


The Coeur d’Alene resident is now been given an opportunity to become a trainer within the MA program. Her years of experience, education and training are priceless, and she enjoys sharing what she has learned with the next generation of medical assistants. 


“The MA program is allowing our CNAs to become an MA while still working in our clinic,” said Penny. “The one thing I would say to others who want to advance their medical careers is to go for it. The only thing you have to lose is not taking the opportunity to advance.” 


Penny recently attended the AAMA National Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, for a training. She said the conference was an amazing experience being with certified medical assistants from all over the country.


“I have never felt so empowered in my life,” said Smith. “It was inspiring.”


She initially started working in home healthcare, providing care for the elderly, but she wanted to be able to do more. Determined, she went back to school to get the necessary skills to achieve her goals. Today, Penny is a certified medical assistant with Heritage Health. She started with Heritage Health four years ago as a volunteer and then was hired full-time.


She is known to crack jokes and laugh to reduce the stress of her teammates. 
Penny interacts with about two dozen patients every day, taking their vitals, entering the medical history into the computer, ordering prescriptions, and making patients feel at ease. She also assists providers as needed.


“I’ve always been a caregiver,” she said. “I want the best for people.”


She is known for her outgoing personality, bright smile, and compassion. 


“Penny truly cares about our patients,” said Brandon Smith, Physician Assistant. “Her warmth and kindness allow our patients to feel comfortable. She plays a vital role within our team and I appreciate everything she does for each patient.”


Penny is empathetic towards people struggling to make ends meet. She knows what’s it like to be poor and struggling to put food on the table or worrying about affording medical care for children.


Those patients have a special place in her heart. 


“I have been where many of my patients are right now,” she said. “I know how hard it can be. Being homeless with three children taught me a lot about who I wanted to be.”

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