(Colorado News Connection) A national training program with deep roots in Colorado is partnering with colleges and universities in an effort to bring more people into healthcare careers.
Elena Thomas Faulkner - CEO of the National Institute for Medical Assistant Advancement, or NIMAA - said medical assistants play a critical role in primary care at community health centers.
They facilitate every aspect of the one-stop-shop visits that connect patients with medical, behavioral, and dental care.
"From the planning ahead of time, to how the flow goes while the patient is there, through to the follow up that might happen after an exam," said Faulkner. "So they are critical to both the patient's experience, but also to the way that the clinic is able to provide high quality and efficient care."
The pandemic took a significant toll on the healthcare profession, and the demand for workers recently led Colorado lawmakers to pass House Bill 1246 - which removes cost as a barrier for students completing certificate programs in high demand fields.
NIMAA is accepting applications for its training program through the end of May, and Faulkner said scholarships are available.
The new partnerships will allow students to earn credits toward associate's degrees at Colorado Mesa University, Colorado Mountain College, Community College of Denver, and Western Colorado Community College.
Faulkner said the program is flexible by design in order to be accessible for people living in medically underserved communities.
"Our students aren't typically folks who can take time out of life to just focus on school," said Faulkner. "So they have kids, or they need to maintain part time income, they are balancing all of those things."
NIMAA is a key workforce talent pipeline for safety net health centers in Colorado and across the U.S.
Graduates starting out as medical assistants have gone on to become doctors, nurse practitioners, and administrative leaders.
Faulkner said she frequently checks in with clinical partners across the country about the program.
"And I don't think there is a single one of those conversations that we have," said Faulkner, "where they don't say to us 'hey, we've got so-and-so, started out as a medical assistant now they are the director of nursing services, or now they're the clinic director for this site, or they're the operations director.'"