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ACC Graduate Spotlight: Derrick Clark


If Derrick Clark could go through the vocational nursing program at American Career College-Los Angeles all over again, he would find that perfect "Goldilocks zone" of study and sleep.

"I think I could have done a lot better and it would have been a smoother ride for myself if I would have really made the time to study appropriately and made time to unwind appropriately — not too much unwinding, not too much studying but having a balance," Clark said.

His advice for future students is to "prioritize" and "be honest with yourself."

"Time management is going to be key throughout the career and that was something that I struggled with a lot," he said, adding that extra time spent studying can be the difference between knowing something or truly understanding it. "I would really try to make sure that I understood the information more than memorizing it, but really comprehending what's going on in pathophysiology and really understand these things that are going on with the body, and the body and the medications."

Why did you choose to attend ACC?

I chose ACC because from looking at reviews and hearing different things that people had told me about VN programs, I thought that this would be a sure bet. I heard that there were a lot of resources in the program so I thought this would be a good fit for me

What were you doing before enrolling at ACC? Have you always been interested in healthcare?

I was working for the school district actually, in the carpentry program so this was a big change. I've had people close to me in healthcare and the career that I was in, I didn't get the fulfillment that I was looking for. With just a little bit of reading, I said "you know what, Derrick? You like to be around people. You want to really do something positive for society. Why not get into health care?" And career longevity, career advancement, all those other things as well.

What do you want to do now that you have graduated?

I want to try to get into psych but eventually, I just want to go all the way to nurse practitioner, doctor nurse practitioner and just keep going as far as my brain and my body will let me.

Speaking of your brain: Was going back to school harder or easier than you expected?

It was a lot more challenging than I expected. And not so much the curriculum but just everything that it takes for you to sacrifice, for you to focus. That was the hardest thing. Just looking in the mirror and really challenging myself, saying "Are you going to accomplish this? Are you gonna get this done?" That was the biggest challenge that I saw.

Did you ever want to quit?

Every other day. (laughs) But like I said people like ACC-LA Student Services coordinator Ruthy Rodriguez, my classmates, the administration, they really helped to push me, push me, push me. My instructors and my family. Without them, I probably would have quit. 

How many men were in the vocational nursing program?

I saw a lot more men than I expected — a lot more men. And I was shocked at all the different shapes and sizes and colors and age groups of people that I saw while I was in school. It was really good to see that.

Was there any advice you received or a motto you used to get through school?

Something that I kept repeating and was really powerful when I heard it was: "Nothing is above you." I mean, I'm probably not going to become an astronaut, but when it comes time for me to read four chapters or understand and memorize lab values — this information is not above us, in any of the programs here. It's not above you. If you put the work in, you can do it. So "Nothing is above me," I think that really helped me. It really helped to motivate me and humble me to be able to do it.

What was your clinical experience like?

My clinical experience was — I keep using the word humble — but it was really a humbling experience. Being in these facilities and these are people that might only see me two times a week, but our interaction and seeing how thankful they are when we get there and even how thankful they were when we left — and even the ones that don't thank you. When you just feel that energy, that you maybe made somebody's day or you took the extra time out to talk to them and that interaction is healing in and of itself. That is really powerful.

Do you have any advice for new students?

I think anybody who's interested in becoming a VN or any other profession or discipline, I think just make the decision and dig deep. Dig deep and believe that you can do it. If you really dig deep, all you have to do is make the decision and you can do it.

What's the one thing you want people to know about going to ACC?

Understand how big of a change this can be for your life and how it can really shift the direction that your life is going. I think that's really important — the feeling of accomplishment and humility when you put the work in and you've cried and you've laughed and when you see that you've gotten yourself through it and you see that you took your life and your career and the next 10, 15, 20, 30 years of your future in your hands — I think feeling that is something really big. That's something I want people to understand that if you do this and you put your life in your hands, you can really go in a really positive direction.

ACC cannot guarantee employment. Programs vary by campus. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.

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