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Home Grown Medical Assistants

Community Health nurtures career development with Certified Medical Assistant training

“If the company can take the employees they have and increase their intelligence and give them more knowledge and skill I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for all involved,” said Laura Pelletier, a 2019 graduate of the Medical Assistant Training Program at Stafford Technical Center in Rutland. “I can’t go to nursing school full time,” said the mother of three. “I have to work. Being able to work and do schooling was great. Community Health was flexible with hours and they changed things around for us. They worked hard for us.”

Lauren Stacey was another of the 14 graduates of the one-semester accelerated course. “I felt like I had a lot more potential than what I was doing at the time,” she said. She had been working as a health insurance navigator at Community Health Brandon and jumped at the chance to become more involved in the clinical side of the health care practice.

“To get that education in three or four months was amazing. It was like a power push to get through that time,” Stacey said. Students attended class three nights a week for three hours each night.

Certified Medical Assistant Marissa Lamoureux take a patient’s temperature.

“When I went to a conference last year, it was obvious that medical assistants were very well utilized in primary care,” said Community Health Clinical Director Claudia Courcelle, RN, BSN, MSA. “We knew that we had to come up with an idea on how we could recruit more. And then we came up with an idea to home grow our own for our primary care practices.”

Courcelle contacted William Lucci, the assistant director for adult technical education at Stafford Technical Center in Rutland, and they roughed out a basic curriculum.

“They were looking for a course that was skill based, but still had some meaningful topics like a communications class, medical ethics and HIPPA. They wanted it to be accelerated and tied to industry-recognized credentialing that would validate that the people coming out of the pipeline actually knew what they were doing.” Together, Courcelle, Lucci and their teams created a rigorous course that included both clinical and administrative skills.

Lucci also contacted Vermont Student Assistance Corp. (VSAC) and found that the students taking the medical assistant course could apply for the $2,500 Advancement Grant, making the course basically free for those who qualified for the financial assistance. Community Health picked up the cost for any employees who didn’t qualify for the grants, so the course was free for them as well.

“We Identified within our own team several staff members who were licensed nursing assistants or front office staff who thought maybe they wanted to be in the medical assistant program,” Courcelle said. “We wanted to give them the opportunity to grow and stay within the organization.” It was big commitment because a lot of them were working all day and would be taking classes in the evenings three days a week.

“The program worked out wonderfully,” Lucci said. All 14 in the program, 12 from Community Health and two from outside agencies, passed the nationally-recognized Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) examination delivered through the National Healthcareer Association.

Providers at Community Health’s seven locations need to be functioning at the highest levels possible, Courcelle said. So, gathering data, taking vitals like blood pressure and temperature, entering patient information and scheduling appointments were functions that medical assistants were trained to handle so the provider could focus on the examination and consultation with the patient. Medical assistants also learn the confidentiality regulations that govern all patient medical information, and many are familiar with electronic health record (EHR) systems, providing more needed support for providers who can then focus their time on the patient.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the “employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 23 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.”

“Their need for medical assistants was going to ascend over the next ten years,” Lucci said. “So they wanted to address it now rather than waiting for the need to get more critical. Hats off to them for having that foresight to get this out now and having it be a pipeline for their needs.”

Certified Medical Assistant Allison Devino records patient information.

Stafford Technical Center, an arm of the Rutland City public school system, transforms the daytime classrooms into adult education sites at night, often working directly with local manufacturing and corporate career training programs to identify employment skills needed in the area. “They come to us for a training need and we are able to create a program for them.” Lucci said. “Everything we do comes through tuition and fees. No taxpayer money from Rutland City Public Schools goes into the evening division programs.” And the VSAC grants, Lucci said, are designed to get people to the next step in their careers.

The graduates of the medical assistant program improved their skills, became more valuable in the workplace and most of them moved into clinical roles that they had wanted for their own career advancement. In return, Community Health added staff to improve the quality and efficiency of their clinical operations.

To help providers spend more time with patients, medical assistants have been included in the support teams at all of Community Health’s practices. Some specialize in administrative or clinical work while others assist providers directly.

At Community Health, medical assistants typically:

  • Greet patients and prepare them for their exam
  • Record patient history, medications and personal information
  • Measure vital signs, such as blood pressure
  • Prepare exam rooms
  • Help physicians with patient examinations
  • Give patients injections, immunizations or medications as directed by physicians
  • Schedule patient appointments
  • Prepare blood samples for laboratory tests
  • Enter patient information into medical records

The increasing demand for preventive medical services, which are often provided by physicians, will result in the need to hire more medical assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical duties, allowing the physicians to see more patients.

Certified medical assistants like Laura Pelletier are benefitting from the home grown program created by Community Health.

“The more I know the more valuable I feel,” said Pelletier. “A lot was learned in three months, and I very much appreciate it.”

For more information about Community Health career opportunities, check our website.

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