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Legacy Health encourages students to say 'YES' to health careers

Tualatin High School alum Exiva Patino participated in Legacy Health's YES Program years ago, and the experience shaped her entire career


TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - MRI technologist Exiva Patino stands in the doorway to a MRI scanner at Legacy Median Park Medical Center.As a junior at Tualatin High School, Exiva Patino embarked on a journey that shaped the rest of her professional life.

With an interest in nursing, she applied for Legacy Health's Youth Employment in Summers program, which seeks to encourage students of ethnic diversity to pursue post-secondary education in a health field by providing them with paid summer internships and college scholarships. When Patino was granted this opportunity, she knew it was big, but she had no way of knowing that it would still be affecting her life 15 years later.

“It definitely made things a lot easier, just because it kind of opened up a pathway for me to say 'OK. This is what I want to do. This is what I want to work for,'” said the 32-year-old Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center radiologic technologist. “I had that mentality that I did want to work in the health field, but I don't know how easy that would have been without that support that I had with the people that I worked with.”

After her initial internship through YES at Meridian Park, she was hired on and continued to work part-time until she graduated from TuHS. After that, she continued working as she went to Portland Community College, had a daughter, and earned an associate degree in radiography.

“I liked that there was opportunity to grow within that department,” Patino said. “And then just the variety. Dealing with different people all the time, different exams, and you weren't just stuck doing one thing the whole time.”TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - MRI technologist Exiva Patino prepares to scan a patient on a MRI scanner at Legacy Median Park Medical Center.

Up until her internship, however, Patino didn't even know that this career path existed. Early in high school, she thought she wanted to be a nurse because to her, the health field consisted of only two paths — nurses and doctors. No other options had been presented to her, so she never sought any others out. During her internship, however, one of the places Patino worked was in the X-ray department.

“That's when I really knew what X-ray entailed. I mean, I had no idea what it was. Unless you break a bone or something, you really don't know,” the Sherwood resident said. “I liked that you weren't really with one particular patient; you were kind of all over the place, and I loved that. You were in the (operating room). You were in the different units doing portables. Then there were different modalities that you could be in.”

After graduating from PCC, Patino worked in radiology, moved on to CAT scans, and is now working toward becoming certified in MRI. It's a field that is ever-changing and ever-growing, allowing Patino to be constantly learning.

“There's not a chance for me to be bored with anything because I'm all over the place,” she said. “I think that's what I like — it's just not something where you're stuck. It seems to me like you're growing all the time.”

Yet without the YES Program, Patino may never have discovered this facet of the health industry. She might have gone to school for nursing, only to get work in a hospital, discover she hated it, and be forced to start over with something else. During the summer she served as an intern after her junior year in high school, she was able to explore and find new avenues. And not only was she able to learn of their existence, she was actually able to watch and practice.

“When I was in the X-ray program, I mean it happens every year — there's somebody that applies in the X-ray program,. They get in. They take the classes and they come to clinicals and they drop out because it's really not what they wanted,” said Patino, before describing her own experience with this when exploring nursing. “They were doing just a small surgery (on a) finger, and I mean, I nearly fainted. I was like 'Umm. Maybe this is not what I want to do.'”

If that hadn't happened, she said it's possible she could've gone on to nursing school and hated it. Instead, she found a path she loves, and one that's also allowed her to provide for her family. Though she wanted to pursue a career in health in order to help other people, Patino also wanted a stable career that would consistently provide something better than what her parents' jobs did for her family.

“I definitely wanted something better for our family. My parents came from Mexico years ago, and they always had jobs that — I mean, my mom worked in the factory. They got their papers because they worked in the fields, so it was not the best,” she said. “But my parents are also very driven, so I think that kind of made me want to do the same thing, because my parents are strong and they fight for what they want. I think that's kind of what made me also pursue a better career.”

As a junior in high school, Patino began on a journey that shaped the rest of her life. A decade and a half later, she's still happy with where she ended up.

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