Missouri Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Success Story
While she waited for her name to be called, Lois Prettyman became overwhelmed by a rush of emotions. Nervous, elated, melancholy and proud — all are words that describe how she felt during the Barnes-Jewish College of Nursing and Allied Health Honors convocation ceremony last May. Lois graduated with honors and received both a bachelor of science degree and a clinical lab science degree.
In May 2007, Lois completed a four-year cooperative program between Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL). She studied three years at UMSL for a medical technologist degree and completed the fourth year performing clinicals at Barnes-Jewish. She did this while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.
However, Lois’ life has not always been full of such great accomplishments. Her bipolar disorder often made it difficult for her to maintain employment.
Twenty years ago, Lois worked her way up the career ladder at a bank in Florida, but her disability affected her job performance. Her disorder became so severe that she was unable to secure successful employment. Lois was forced to seek Social Security (SS) disability benefits in 1993. That was when she first sought the help of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR).
While living in Florida, she worked with VR to obtain a degree in psychology. Yet even with a college diploma, she was not able to find suitable employment.
When her husband’s company transferred him to Missouri in 1998, the family settled in Chesterfield. Still wanting to pursue a career, Lois began investigating avenues to reach her goal. She learned about the Ticket to Work program through the Internet. The Social Security Administration runs this program for individuals who receive SS disability benefits and would like to work. Disability beneficiaries receive assistance in obtaining vocational rehabilitation and employment services.
Working through the program, Lois contacted the St. Charles VR office in 2002. She met her counselor, Lydia Mitchell, and they began career exploration and vocational planning. A vocational evaluation revealed what Lois had already known — a job in the medical field would suit her well. Lois had always wanted to work as a medical technologist, so she and Mitchell agreed on a clinical lab science program. After much research, Lois found that she could take the majority of her classes at UMSL while finishing at Barnes-Jewish.
Though VR funded her education at both schools, at times Lois paid for a portion of her books and fees. By assuming this responsibility, Mitchell knew that Lois had a “real investment in her program.”
Two months before she graduated, Lois was offered a job by Barnes-Jewish Hospital. She was hired as a full-time medical technologist thanks to her strong work ethic and exceptional performance during her hematology clinical rotation. Her supervisors were flexible in scheduling part-time hours until graduation.
As a condition of employment, Lois was required to secure licensure with the American Society of Clinical Pathologists and the National Credentialing Agency. VR covered the cost for both licenses.
Lois loves her job. She enjoys working with her supervisor and everyone in the hematology department. She tests for diseases such as mononucleosis and sickle cell anemia; her extensive training and expertise enable her to recognize abnormal lab results and determine the next step to take. Lois’ work is pivotal in disease diagnosis.
Mitchell has supported Lois’ decisions throughout the VR process. “Lois has been a pleasure to work with,” Mitchell said. “She will continue to be successful in whatever endeavors she chooses to pursue.”
Lois feels strongly about the support she received from VR. “I had a very positive experience with VR,” she said. “No one wants disability. You need to want to work and have a specific, realistic goal in mind. That is what I learned from working with VR.”
Lois obviously learned much more than that. Because of her intellectual abilities, she was duly recognized throughout her academic career. She received the Dean’s Honor Award for Clinical Laboratory Science, the Jean S. Schroeder Memorial Scholarship through the Clinical Laboratory Management Association and the Joyce Torrey Scholarship for Clinical Laboratory Science.
Lois gives all of the credit to her counselor and VR. “These achievements are due entirely to the help I have received from (Lydia Mitchell’s) efforts through Vocational Rehabilitation,” she said. “I feel excited to once again be a working, productive member of society, and I hope my future efforts will positively impact the quality of patients’ lives.”