Health Occupations Career Pathway program provides students local hands on experience

This year is the 35th anniversary of Tillamook Bay Community College. Each month, the Headlight Herald will print an article featuring student success stories and highlighting partnerships and programming provided by our local community college. It is an opportunity to remember and acknowledge the 35-year commitment our community has made to higher education in Tillamook County.

Health Occupations Instructor, Anna Kleeman coaching students enrolled in the Health Occupations Career Pathway program on how to take an accurate blood pressure reading.
Health Occupations Instructor, Anna Kleeman coaching students enrolled in the Health Occupations Career Pathway program on how to take an accurate blood pressure reading.


Melissa Waud was in high school when an opportunity through Tillamook Bay Community changed her life forever.

“I was enrolled in the Health Occupation program offered at the high school,” Waud recalled.

The Health Occupations Program is a partnership between local high schools and Tillamook Bay Community College that provide the opportunity to learn about a career in the health care field while in high school and earn credit toward a college degree.

At the end of the course, Waud and her fellow students were able to job shadow at Tillamook Regional Medical Center.

“I always thought I wanted to do paramedics when I got older, but I discovered in just one day that I couldn’t handle that,” she said.

Waud job shadowed in several different departments before landing in physical therapy. “I remember my first patient like it was yesterday,” she said. “He was a middle-aged man training for a new career. We were able to help him identify the problems he was having and get him on track to accomplish his goals. I had so much fun that day,” she continued. “I just laughed all day long and I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life.”

Now eight years later, Waud has earned her clinical Doctorate of Physical Therapy from University of St. Augustine in California and is currently studying for the licensing board – an accomplishment that she might not have completed if it hadn’t been for the opportunities available to her through TBCC.

“I have the best career ahead of me,” she said. “I’m so excited for my future and I might not have gotten here without the opportunities I had thanks to my teachers and the college.”

Exposing more people like Waud to careers in technical fields such as health care continues to be a top priority at TBCC. “The Health Occupations High School/TBCC career pathway program is a way to assist high school students having experiences in the broad health occupations areas,” said TBCC President Connie Green. “We are a small, rural community and that means that our students might not have as many opportunities as those in metro areas. We have seen many students enter the health field and then find careers in our community. Tillamook Regional Medical Center has many employees who explored the health field through this program.”

Just last year, TBCC partnered with Clatsop Community College to bring Clatsop’s one-year Medical Assisting program to the TBCC campus, allowing students to complete the rigorous curriculum without having to commute to Astoria.

“We knew there was a huge need for medical assistants in our county after talking with the hospital and the county healthy department,” Green continued. “We also knew Clatsop had a very successful program that was training people to work in these high-demand jobs, so we found a way to connect our students to the education they needed.”

“The healthcare field is experiencing a shortage of health workers that is being felt across the county,” noted Marlene Putman, Administrator for the Tillamook County Health Department. “Medical facilities need medical assistants who are professionally trained, with a strong work ethic that values attention to detail – especially those who have completed a quality training program like that being offered at TBCC through Clatsop. Partnerships between TBCC and local health facilities offer students opportunities locally to attain the skills necessary for a successful career and a path forward.”

The medical assisting program gained significant interest from the community and discussion is underway to continue it a second year. TBCC continues to partner with the high schools and the community to support the health care careers in our county.

To learn more about opportunities available at TBCC, visit