As Forrest Gump liked to point out, life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. For Barbara Haselrud, that metaphor proved all too literal. After 10 successful years of selling chocolates for Russell Stover Candies, she was unexpectedly let go in 2006. She was 55.
“Because sales jobs were quickly diminishing with the growth of the Internet, I knew at my age I had to reinvent myself quickly,” she says in an article by Cathy Cassata that appeared in CMA Today.
Then, in another twist of fate that would have made Forrest Gump nod knowingly, Haselrud received a brochure in the mail from a technical college touting its medical assisting program. “It just spoke to me,” she says. A few months later she graduated from the program and was hired immediately.
Haslerud’s first job was at her externship site, Essentia Health, in Duluth, Minn. And once again, it seemed that Forrest Gump was scripting her story: after years of selling candy, she wound up in the clinic’s medical and surgical weight management department.
In terms of fulfillment, Haselrud much prefers medical assisting to selling chocolates. “I love it. Right before our eyes we see people change their lives. It’s the most wonderful, rewarding job,” she says.
Her passion and dedicated earned Haslerud the clinic’s Employee of the Year award in 2009. She does it all, from scheduling patients and taking their vital signs to assisting surgeons with lap band fills. “I also help run the weight loss information session, which introduces patients to weight loss surgeries,” Haslerud says.
Connecting with patients brings Haselrud immense satisfaction. “We form bonds with patients, get to know them, and see their metamorphosis. When patients come in and they’re struggling, having difficulty breathing or their joints are hurting, I get excited for them, because I know their life is going to change and I’m going to get to witness it,” she says.
“It’s such a positive experience to help people reach their goals. When I lost my sales job, I was devastated, but I’m actually happy it happened because it gave me the opportunity to touch people’s lives in a way I never imagined I could.”