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Former steel worker gets second chance at ACTC

Jun 16, 2017

In December 2015, Tim Broughton said he became something he never wanted, yet somehow always suspected he’d become — “a 50-something unemployed ex-steelworker.”

Broughton, a desulfurization operator at AK Steel Ashland Works and Ashland resident, spent 14 years pouring molten metal into a hot pot to remove excess sulfur until the plant idled its blast furnace. And he wasn’t alone. More than 600 others were laid off and left to find their way in a workforce that, for many, had changed dramatically.

For Broughton and hundreds of other laid off workers, unemployment carved a path to Ashland Community and Technical College. While Broughton, a 1980 Fairview High School graduate, earned a diploma in industrial electricity from Ashland Vocational Technical School and took some class at Ashland Community College, both predecessors of ACTC, the thought of reentering the world of academics was at first daunting.

“Without a doubt, the hardest aspect of this whole adventure was choosing what field to re-train into,” Broughton said. “Family considerations make relocating a poor choice at this time. I took a realistic look at age and what industrial employers are seeking in applicants. What is there currently a demand for?”

Broughton found that demand to be in the medical field, particularly medical information technology. He decided to pursue a two-year degree in medical coding.

In the Medical Information Technology program (MIT) at ACTC, students can focus on different tracks for a credential, including medical administration, medical office management, electronic health records and medical coding.

Janet Thompson, MIT program coordinator and instructor, said many students choose to earn degrees in all the tracks, which can be completed in a two-year time frame.

“Students will learn how medical organizations operate as a business, including accounting, budgeting, revenue cycles and submitting insurance claims,” Thompson said. “Technology is a major focus of the program. Students will practice skills on Medisoft and SpringCharts software and undergo office simulations as if they are on-the-job.”

Thompson said career readiness is a key focus of the program and is embedded in almost every MIT class, down to preparing resumes and cover letters, mock interviews, job searches and on-site internships.

Betty Marie Sublett, of Catlettsburg, graduated from ACTC in 2011 with an Associate of Applied Science in Medical Information Technology and said the on-the-job training helped prepare her for her career. She now works at Pathways Inc. as the medical records director and privacy officer.

“In the MIT program a student gets a lot of hands-on experience with electronic health records and office work simulation,” Sublett said. “The courses in the MIT program helped me develop a fluency in technology, comfort in working in electronic health record systems and specifically the Microsoft Office courses, which are essential in my career at Pathways.”

Sublett, whose background was in automotive service departments, said she came to ACTC looking for a career change. In addition to her degree, Sublett also earned diplomas in medical office assistant and office assistant, as well as multiple certificates, including data entry operator, receptionist, electronic health records specialist and medical admissions clerk.

“I decided on Medical Information because it is a continually growing field and the opportunities for the types of careers to pursue with a degree in Medical Information Technology are unbelievably endless,” she said. “I do feel I was well prepared for my career.”

Thompson said while some students aren’t necessarily interested in hands-on clinical care, they still want to enter the growing medical field, and the MIT program allows them to do just that.

“The healthcare industry is one of the most stable in our economy and there are lots of factors to successfully run a medical office, which includes knowledgeable support staff to help execute daily business operations,” Thompson said.

“Graduates can look for employment in local hospitals, physician offices, mental health facilities, urgent care, and nursing homes to name just a few,” she said. “There are also opportunities to work remotely from home in medical coding. Our most recent graduates have gotten a job as an office clerk, patient service representative, medical records receptionist, patient care coordinator, accountant, coding processor and office coordinator.”

Stephanie D. Wallace, of Grayson, graduated in May with an associate degree in medical coding and certificates in all the course tracks. She is currently doing an internship with Ashland Children’s Clinic.

“I do feel that ACTC has prepared me for my future,” Wallace said. “The classes I am taking have a lot of hands on assignments and that's really what helps you learn about your career. My professors have been very helpful in my journey at ACTC, and I will forever be grateful that they made such a big impact on why I am prepared to start my life in this career.”

The MIT program graduated 31 students this May.

To learn more about ACTC’s MIT program, visit ashland.kctcs.edu/academics or contact Thompson at janet.thompson@kctcs.edu or Janice Jenkins, division assistant, at janice.jenkins@kctcs.edu.