MADISON (WKOW) — It’s one of the most understaffed positions across the country: the medical assistant. They are the first people patients see when they come to a clinic for treatment.
The assistants work under doctors, covering administrative and some clinical work. According to UW Health, Madison is still looking to hire dozens for clinics across the area.
Dr. Bridgett Willey, the director of allied health education and career pathways at UW Health, said she saw a clear need.
“Without them we can’t run our clinics and our patients don’t get to see their physicians or their practitioners and can’t get the care they need,” she said.
To meet that need, she proposed a first-of-its-kind program at UW Health. It’s called the Medical Assistant Apprenticeship Program.
It’s an 11-month course targeted at current hospital employees so they can move into the in-demand health care position. On Friday, Dr. Willey was there to see the first class graduate.
“It’s just so exciting and so fulfilling,” she said.
According to Willey, between SSM Health, UW Health and UnityPoint-Meriter, the Madison area hires nearly 400 medical assistants a year. That is far more than can be supplied by the program at Madison College.
“So we really had to do something to build another program to open the gates,” she said.
Briane Roberts was one of the first 19 graduates. Already a UW Health employee before enrolling, she said she was looking for an opportunity to move up.
“Before I got into this program I was in shipping and mailing,” she said.
Through the apprenticeship program, she was able to take on 400 classroom hours and 2,000 clinical hours, all while balancing her full-time job. For Roberts, she said it was the perfect opportunity to follow a career closer to her heart.
“My mom was the one who inspired me into this program,” she said. “I lost my mom in 2012 to Lupus.”
Roberts said after watching her mother see doctor after doctor and go to clinic after clinic through her 12-year battle, she knew she wanted to join the medical field.
“I feel like she would be so excited that I actually walked the stage,” she said.
Now, Roberts can officially say she’s a medical professional.
“My first day was last week and it was so exciting,” she said. “I didn’t have to say, ‘Medical assistant student,’ anymore I could just say, ‘My name is Briane the medical assistant,'” she said.
All 19 of Roberts fellow graduates have also accepted medical assistant jobs at Madison-area clinics, though Roberts said her education is not over. She said she plans to attend nursing school as she starts her medical assistant career.