From CNA to Phlebotomist – Peyton’s Education Journey

The below learner journey and employer perspectives were shared at Guild’s Opportunity Summit at a learner panel and employer interview, respectively.


Peyton Duke’s passion for healthcare was always clear. Finding the right employer helped make her options clear, too.


From a young age, Peyton Duke knew she wanted to work in healthcare. She began her career in the field at just 17, having completed a CNA program in high school. But when it came to taking her next planned step — pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing — the pandemic disrupted her education journey and she had to move back home. There, she struggled to find local institutions that would accept her credits, and eventually attended EMT school on a scholarship.

Still seeking to explore other healthcare career options, Duke knew pursuing new pathways would mean finding a way to return to school, but cost remained a major concern. “Financial burden was a big deal,”  she recalled during a working adult learner panel discussion at Guild’s Opportunity Summit. “That’s tough, trying to get back into school when you have nothing to show for it.”

Obtaining a role at UCHealth proved to be the doorway to exactly the opportunities Duke was searching for. She had been hired as a Patient Access Specialist, a role that is more customer service-oriented than the work she was used to performing as a CNA. Although she had decided that returning to nursing was not the right career path for her, she realized she missed the feeling of personal impact she was able to effect through clinical work.


Peyton Duke (second from right) laughs while taking a question from panel moderator and Guild Senior Vice President of Student Services and Strategy, Terrence Cummings (left).

“My passion when I was a CNA was you treat those patients like they’re your own family.  That’s the love and desire that I had for healthcare and that’s what brought me into it,” Duke said. “I knew I needed to look for some resource to get back on the clinical side, to be able to find my passion and my love for caring for people, for providing for them, for being that loved one when their loved ones aren’t there for them.”

That’s when she learned that her employer, UCHealth, had partnered with Guild to offer her the career mobility platform that she needed.

Duke knew many patients need to have their blood drawn, and could recall from her own experiences that the phlebotomist really made all the difference in whether or not she had a positive experience. Inspired by the opportunity to positively impact patients’ experiences in this way, Duke learned that UCHealth would cover her tuition to earn her phlebotomy technician certification — a role with many onramps to future mobility — and enable her to pursue this position within the company.




For equity-focused companies, creating the right structures for career opportunity hinges on aligning actions with values.

Compassionate leaders in healthcare know how difficult the past few years have been for healthcare workers across roles. “We’ve gone through a really significant period of time these last three years,” David Mafe, Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Human Resources at UCHealth said in an interview at Guild’s Opportunity Summit, “and we’ve got people that are a little banged up, a little beaten up, a little burnt out. We’ve got to support them in getting restored, and getting reengaged.”

For Mafe and equity-minded healthcare leaders like him, supporting workforce restoration and re-engagement stems from aligning actions with identity — finding the right ways to meaningfully improve the lives of a workforce that identifies with making the lives of others better. “One of the things about UCHealth is that we’ve got this phenomenal mission,” Mafe said. “Our mission is that we improve lives, through learning, healing, and discovery. What we’re doing is really closely tied to who we’ve said we are.”




For Duke, re-engagement meant finding career mobility that better aligned with her healthcare pathway interests and sense of purpose.  Two weeks after earning her credential as a phlebotomist, she successfully interviewed for a role as a Certified Phlebotomy Technician at UCHealth, and was working in her new position within a month. 

“During my interview I told them my history,” she said, explaining to her hiring manager that she had completed EMT school but had been waiting to take the national license exam. “They were like, ‘Ok, well we want you to do that… We want you to take that step, we want you to do that growth, whether that means you leave [this department] here, you can still stay within UCHealth.”

Hearing that she would be supported to continue to grow beyond her current role, and potentially into a new unit within the organization, struck a chord.  “So it’s not just about the support that I feel within the company about whether you have the job or not,” Duke said. “The vision that they’re showing is I don’t have to leave the company to do better, to be bigger. I can grow inside that company and still be a part of UCHealth while bettering myself, while furthering my education.”

In addition to a shared mission to improve lives, Duke recognized the opportunity to continue learning and growing as a shared value. “UCHealth is a very ‘learning’ company. They always want you to grow. And partnering with Guild proved that to me, in a way. Within healthcare, if I didn’t want to serve patients anymore, I could go do business, I could go do accounting, I could do billing — there are so many outlets within healthcare. I don’t ever want to leave UCHealth.”

Peyton’s story is a testament to why understanding the career mobility practices and philosophies of healthcare organizations matter to healthcare learning programs committed to helping students gain the right skills and competencies to access career opportunity. Employers that take their mobility commitments seriously provide the encouragement, support, and structures for mobility necessary for learners like Duke to access.

Hear more learning journey stories by watching the full panel from Guild’s Opportunity Summit below.


Talk to our team to learn more about Learning Partnership opportunities with Guild.

Written by Alex Cannon

Senior Content Marketing Manager

Alex Cannon has been an advocate for innovative education for over a decade, with experience in higher ed, cross-functional learning partnerships in workforce, government, philanthropy, and postsecondary education, as well as informal learning. She writes and researches from the intersection of the future of learning, work, and opportunity.

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