AU Profiles – Chandra Gattinger

Student: Chandra Gattinger

Four classes a week is a full load, but psychology student Chandra Gattinger manages to fit them into her 32-hour workweek. ?It’s [a] matter of finding a goal, and wanting to work towards it,? she says. Here, Chandra, who works as a nurse’s aide, explains why She’s changing her career to psychology.

She also describes how she avoids procrastination, why course tutors are such a valuable resource, and what’s absolutely necessary to her weekly schedule.

For the past six years, Chandra has been working in the nursing field as a Patient Care Assistant (PCA). ?I love my work,? she says, but She’s eager for a career change: ?I’ve realized that while there are a lot of benefits to being involved in nursing . . . there are many drawbacks, too.?

For example, she notes that in addition to having odd working hours, her chances for injury are high. ?I read a study once that said PCAs are the top of the list for injury at work . . . [and] I’ve had many already,? she says. ?I was off for six weeks with a back injury last October.?

But she isn’t anxious to give up the interpersonal interaction that nursing brings. Although she initially considered obtaining her RN degree, she changed her plans when she learned that she’d need to quit working to attend school and clinical practice. ?I would have [had] to take leaves of absence from my work, and because I work in a small place, that might not [have been] possible,? she says.

That led her to investigate obtaining a degree in counselling; She’s now in her second year of AU’s Bachelor of Science in Psychology program.

?Beginning a career as a counsellor will allow me to still help people, and manage to live the lifestyle that I dream to have,? says Chandra. It’s an interest that has been fuelled by her nursing work, particularly in palliative care. ?While my job ends when my patient dies . . . I wonder often what happens to the family,? she says. ?I wonder . . . how could I help people in a situation like that.?

She’s unsure whether she’ll specialize in grief counselling, though, and plans to see in what direction life takes her. ?I know that I’ve always wanted to help people,? she says. ?I’m keeping my options open.?

Distance learning with AU has been key to furthering her educational goals, as it has allowed her to continue working. ?I can do the [class] work in my ?spare time? and still work 32 hours,? she says.

What’s her secret? The flexibility of both her job and her studies has allowed her to find a routine that works for her. To keep on track, she follows a strict schedule, working in the afternoon and evening, and reserving mornings for studying. It works well, although she admits ?it takes discipline to follow it . . . [and] I don’t always have that!?

Like most distance students, Chandra struggles with procrastination. ?Sometimes motivation is the biggest challenge,? she says. ?I’m not a morning person . . . [and] because I don’t need to be up for lectures, it can be easy to just . . . roll over in bed and forget about school!?

But having a goal keeps her motivated?as does keeping her eyes on the contract date. ?I’m funded by Alberta student loans, so when my courses are due, four are due at the same time,? she says. ?That puts enough fear into me that I get my stuff done!?

In addition to its scheduling flexibility, Chandra finds independent study itself easier than traditional classroom-based learning. ?There’s no interruption from people who don’t take school seriously,? she says. Plus, She’s able to take classes at her own pace, which is an advantage when She’s doing a mix of difficult and easier courses. ?If I am taking a course where my work offers me an advantage to the terminology used, then I can work more quickly, but if I am taking a history course . . . I can work slowly and not be rushed,? she says.

Although she’d like to see more peer interaction (on the AUSU message boards, for example), Chandra works hard to ensure that distance study doesn’t make her isolated. ?I have a great support system with great friends,? she says. ?My co-workers are supportive too; they ask how school is going, and they celebrate my victories, and tease me when I am heartbroken about getting ?only a B+? in a course!?

Plus, she makes use of course tutors in order to give her classes a more personal component. ?The tutors, more often than not, are wonderful,? she says. ?They are . . . happy to help you learn the material.? She recalls the difference between a class where she struggled through the material with little tutor contact, and one where she asked for help. ?It was so much easier!? she says.

Finally, Chandra also makes a point of scheduling in time for relaxation. ?I am always off work on Sundays and Mondays, and those are days that I am free to do as I wish,? she says. Although she’ll sometimes choose to study on those days, she makes sure at least one of them is free so that She’s able to visit friends, or just relax, recharge, and prevent burnout. ?Downtime is necessary with a schedule like mine,? she says. ?I am a crazy woman!?

Christina M. Frey’s got her schedule all worked out: everything comes before housework. When She’s trying to avoid doing the dishes, she blogs about life at The Twisting Kaleidoscope.

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