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Respiratory therapy student lands full-time position with generous signing bonus

Paulette Chevalier spent two decades in the insurance business before pursuing a medical career as a respiratory therapist.

“I wanted to get out of the cubicle and into patient care. I felt like this was my higher calling,” Chevalier said.

Chevalier started with an anatomy and physiology class at Tidewater Community College and is now close to completing an associate degree in Respiratory Therapy. She says the college had an array of resources that made it easy to succeed. “As a seasoned student, I appreciated the library staff, tutoring and the support of my professors,” she said.

Chevalier was recently offered a full-time position at Riverside Hospital with a $20,000 signing bonus. Once she earns her associate degree in May 2022, she will be working in a field she loves. “I walked away from a great career because I knew this was my passion,” she said.

Chevalier at the Regional Health Professions Center.

Chevalier began taking classes before the pandemic and had to adjust to learning online. She is grateful to be back in the high-simulation lab for hands-on training. “Being able to put my hands on the equipment and work with simulated patients has been so beneficial. It’s been the key to learning lifesaving treatments.”

The Respiratory Therapy program includes clinical rotations in area hospitals interspersed with classroom and lab work. “We do a lot of critical thinking in class, and seeing the work done in the field really helps solidify the concepts,” she said.

Chevalier is working on her required clinical rotation hours at Lake Taylor hospital and has also done clinicals at Sentara, Bon Secours and Riverside hospitals.

Chevalier says that she chose TCC because her husband, Akil Chevalier, is an alum of the college. He earned an information technology associate degree before moving on for bachelor’s and master’s degrees in IT.

“I really never considered going anywhere else. I knew TCC was affordable and I’d get a quality education,” the mom of two added.

She continued by adding, “I can’t say enough good things about respiratory therapy as a career. We’re trained to make independent decisions about patient care while working as part of the critical care team. If you are looking to provide patient care, but want to master a speciality, respiratory therapy is the way to go.”

To learn more about the Respiratory Therapy program, prospective students are invited to Open House, which is held on the third Thursday of each month (except December) at 3 p.m. in the Regional Health Professions building on the Virginia Beach Campus. Email Program Director Denise Bieszczad at for more information.

Free 3-D ultrasounds offer rewarding experience to students, community

Tidewater Community College’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography (DMS) program is once again offering ultrasounds to expectant mothers and their families. There is no charge for this service.

The program began offering obstetrics scanning to the community almost two decades ago and is back after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students and the communities we serve,” said Indu Sharma, director of TCC’s DMS program. “Obstetrics scanning is one of the most difficult exams for our students to learn because of the limited opportunities available at most hospital sites.”

The exams are completed in the Health Professions building on the Virginia Beach Campus. Sonography students work alongside a credentialed sonographer and check fetal anatomy and measurements. The scan is for educational purposes only and is not interpreted by a physician or guaranteed to detect abnormalities. If something of concern is noted, participants will be referred back to their obstetricians.

Interested moms-to-be can schedule a free 3-D/4-D ultrasound appointment by calling 757-822-7257. Three schedules are released through the year, one for the spring, summer, and fall semesters, respectively. Appointments are limited. Donations to the program are appreciated but not required. Moms should bring a CD-R or DVD-R so they can keep their ultrasound images.

Moms have to be between 28-32 weeks along and cannot be high risk or carrying twins.

For more information, contact Sharma at

TCC alum found her future in TCC’s Health Information Management program

Mōnika Young longed for a career in health care that didn’t involve direct patient care.

After 14 years of working as a dental hygienist, she wanted a new challenge and found it at Tidewater Community College.

Attending an information session on the college’s Health Information Management program, she learned about an associate degree that applies information technology and business to health care

“I had heard good things about TCC,” Mōnika said. “I got excited. You can go full time. You can go part time. The hours were convenient.”

She alternated between attending morning or evening classes – the same material is taught in both sessions so students can choose the most convenient option for their schedules. The flexibility allowed her to continue working as a hygienist while attending college.

Scholarships helped pay the way for the 67-credit associate. Twice Mōnika earned the Virginia Health Information Management Association award for a total of $4,000. An American Health Information Management Association scholarship knocked $1,000 off tuition, and its local chapter awarded her a $500 scholarship.

“My professors are the ones who told me about the scholarships,” Mōnika said.

“She is the first student I have had to earn all three!” said Amy Shay, program head for HIM at TCC. “Mōnika has demonstrated excellent ability to set goals and be persistent in achieving them.  She was a model student who will go far in her new career.”

Mōnika hadn’t had a computer class since 2002, but she became proficient quickly thanks to hands-on training at TCC’s Regional Health Professions Center on the Virginia Beach Campus. She credits the HIM faculty for keeping classes interactive and engaging.

“It’s definitely challenging, but the faculty is always there to answer any question,” she said.

Mōnika was also one of the students interviewed when the HIM program underwent reaccreditation earlier this year.

The HIM program achieved reaccreditation for 10 years, the highest recognition awarded by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education.

Mōnika completed an internship at Sentara as part of the TCC program. She passed the Registered Health Information Technician examination to earn an industry credential. TCC boasts a 100 percent pass rate on the exam.

That certification and a recommendation by Shay secured her a job shortly after graduating with her associate in health information management.

Mōnika, 35, was hired on the spot for a validator/indexer position at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. She doesn’t work directly with patients. Instead, customer service, accuracy, attention to detail and ethics are important qualities in her job, which requires processing of electronic health records.

 “I was at crossroads when I came to TCC,” said Mōnika, who just passed the Certified Coding Specialist exam awarding her another credential that will enable her to advance in the field. “I got a great education with teachers who were knowledgeable and experienced. I got a job in a field where there are lots of possibilities for growth.”

Information sessions for the program are held the third Thursday of every month (except December) at 1 p.m. at the Regional Health Professions Center. Contact Shay at or 757-822-7262 for information.

TCC’s Health Information Management program awarded reaccreditation for 10 years

Tidewater Community College’s Health Information Management program has achieved reaccreditation for 10 years through the national governing body.

The 10-year term is the highest recognition awarded by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).

“I am delighted by the news of the reaccreditation of Health Information Management (HIM) at TCC,” said Amy Shay, program director. “It stands as a testament to the continued excellence of the program’s faculty, staff, students and curriculum. Our students will benefit the most, and that reinforces our commitment to student success.”

TCC’s 67-credit Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Management features specialized courses in coding, legal, reimbursement and electronic health records (EHR). The aging population and widespread uses of electronic health records make this a burgeoning field, where starting salaries can average more than $40,000 according to the U.S. Bureau of  Labor Statistics.

Only graduates of CAHIIM-accredited program may take American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) certification exams. TCC graduates boast a 100 percent pass rate on the Registered Health Information Technician examination.

“These credentials are what make our students marketable in the profession,” Shay said.

Graduates who earn AHIMA credentials find employment in health systems, including hospitals, clinics, physicians’ offices, insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Given the advent and portability of electronic health records, graduates can work at home for a variety of employers across the United States.

TCC’s HIM program boasts a 95 percent retention rate. Students learn in the state-of-the-art Regional Health Professions Center on the Virginia Beach Campus. In addition to coursework, all graduates must complete an internship in local health care. Students may attend classes full or part time, with day, evening and online classes available.

Information sessions for the program are held the third Thursday of every month (except December) at 1 p.m. at the Regional Health Professions Center. Contact Shay at or 757-822-7262 for information.