"I walked into the training room one day in high school and, although I had no idea what happened in the room, somehow I knew that whatever was inside, whatever was going on, that was what I was going to do."

Role Model Photo Melissa Harrington

Health Field: Athletic Trainer

Number of years in the profession:
8 year

Years in College: 4 years

Professional Credentials:
ATC, LAT, Instructor of Instructors for AHA

How did you know this career was what you wanted to do?
I walked into the training room one day and although I had no idea what happened in the room, somehow I knew that whatever was inside, whatever was going on, that was what I was going to do.

What other careers did you consider?
Coaching, medicine, and speech pathology

What experiences in your life developed your interest in your career?
A personal injury experience and my athletic trainer in high school, who is now my best friend. She took time to make sure that I knew I was important and fostered a relationship with a teenager to give me a grasp of the profession. The district I was a part of while I was in high school were all great examples to grow up around in the profession. My mother and father have always been very supportive of me and my desires to further my education. My father is a volunteer fire fighter and I would tag along on runs and sometimes I was witness to some unsuccessful efforts and also some life saving events.

What early preparations did you take (in high school and college) to reach your career goal?
I was a student trainer in high school. I also was a lifeguard and swim instructor for 10 years. I was a student trainer in college and worked at a camp in the summer time which helped me to deal with adolescents.

What things did you find to be difficult as you prepared for your career?
Finance was a huge problem for me. I was the first in my entire family to go to college so money was not readily available. My father worked in the oilfield, my mother was a stay at home mom, and I have a brother with learning disabilities. Needless to say college was a goal for me and a want for my parents, but student loans, a bunch of them, paid the way. I got very few grants and was only offered one of the three scholarships I qualified for at my university. I also knew my parents were in financial trouble while I was in school so I decided not to go to grad school, but instead to move back home and help pay bills. Thank goodness there was a job open. I really did not have too many other problems. I was a student with good academic success when I applied myself. I did have to overcome some of the obstacles of my university's AT program. We had two classes and three practicums. I was well prepared for my state test, but the BOC test was another story. My University school bookstore did not carry any AT books and there was very little book instruction to be given. I had plenty of practical experience and I would not trade it, but this made for a harder time passing my BOC, a career goal.

How did you overcome these challenges?
I took out student loans, worked when I could, and took and average of 18 hours a semester so I only had to go to school for four years. I could not have afforded a fifth. One semester I took twenty four hours so I could get out and get to work. I studied and retook the BOC test as many times as it took. I persevered and had a ton of support from my professional family.

Was your family supportive of you through your college (or other training) years?

Did you have a job and work while you were going to college or other training? Yes

Present Career as a Athletic Trainer

Describe an average work day for you.
The training room opens at 7:30 and we do treatments until school starts at 9:00 and we normally have practices during that time as well. We are on a block schedule and have 3 periods of athletics daily. I do the morning injury report during first period and any other administrative paperwork. During morning treatments and first period we also take care of laundry and equipment needs for football. At 10:30 I get an hour off and then @ 12:15 the upperclassmen football period begins. We have freshman football as well freshman girls. Of course throughout the day we are doing surgery rehabs, coordinating doctor appointments, talking to parents, coaches, evaluating injuries as well and taking care of any emergency that might pop up. One of us is always in the football field during contact practices. We have two - four game nights a week. Non game nights we usually get to leave by 7:00PM and game nights are 10:00 or later. During volleyball season I open the training room at 7:00AM and stay through FB practice.

How many hours do you work in an average week?

What kind of health care setting do you work in?
I work for a school district at the high school level

What do you see as strengths needed for your career?
Stress management, stamina, patience, a love for students, a love of sports, the ability to laugh during the bad days, ability to be a good partner to your fellow AT if you have one, always remember family comes first, the ability to say NO sometimes, and respect for others, ability to be flexible, conflict management skills

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Watching a kid come back after an injury knowing that you had a part in it and recently have had two of my former student trainers graduate form HS and are now ATC, LAT. There is no feeling in the world like the above.

What advice would you give to those who are interested in your career?
Make sure it is what you want. Other people's children will always come before your own needs. Make sure you can deal with all types of people because coaches, student trainers, parents, ADs, and principals come in all types.

If you could start over, would you still make the same decision to pursue education?
Absolutely. I would not be whole without the joy, exhilaration, and second family I have gotten from this profession.

Do you plan to pursue opportunities for advancement in your career field?
I think I might want to be an AD so I am working on my masters. I would also like to get my equipment managers certification.

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