Over 90% of Great Bay students who recently graduated were employed immediately upon completion.
As the pandemic continues to pose unrelenting pressure on the nation’s healthcare workforce, Great Bay Community College is working closely with industry partners to prepare healthcare professionals to fill positions at a critical time.
, said Bruce Vance, Program Manager for Healthcare Programs at Great Bay’s Business & Training Center. More than half were hired as apprentices into the program and had their tuition paid by their employers.
“The labor situation in New Hampshire has added pressure to our provider partners to stand out as an employer-of-choice for medical assistants,” Vance said. “Partnering with Great Bay—especially by offering registered apprenticeships—helps them provide a proven, structured, well-known path for their employees to become medical assistants at an accelerated pace and join the workforce quickly.”
The 12-week classes are offered year-round. Spring classes begin in April.
Medical assistants fill a variety of clinical and administrative roles in medical office and hospital settings. Great Bay developed the program in partnership with Core Physicians and Wentworth-Douglass Physician Corp. More recently, Lamprey Health Care joined in the effort.
The program includes 320 hours of classroom instruction and hands-on lab experience, as well as 160 hours of practice and education in local medical offices. After completing the program and receiving their certificate from Great Bay, students are eligible to take the National Health Career Association Certified Clinical Medical Assistant exam.
The Great Bay program is successful because of the caliber of instructors, strong partnerships with providers, and the program structure, Vance said. “With eight weeks of full-time classroom instruction and four weeks of full-time externship as student-medical assistants with our provider partners, we teach them what they need to know to be successful,” Vance said. “This accelerated approach means that students have access to a high-demand occupation with great growth potential, whether it’s a start of a career or a career change, within less than 13 weeks.”
Charles D. Thomas, Director of Recruitment at Exeter Health Resources and Affiliates, which includes Core Physicians LLC, said the Great Bay partnership is essential in providing “a source of well-trained individuals in an extremely challenging labor market. Without this program, the challenges to fill our medical assistant labor needs would be even more difficult.”
During the externship with Core Physicians, the student-medical assistants accompany patients to exam rooms, take their vital signs, document aspects of the visit, and administer vaccinations and immunizations.
The partnership between Great Bay and Core Physicians began in 2015 and continues to evolve, Thomas said. Core Physicians interviews and hires people for the program as employees and pays them a training wage during the 12-week program. When they complete the program, the trainees are promoted into medical assistant roles.
Beginning with the April class, Core Physicians will cover the full cost of the program. “The training program provides individuals interested in pursuing a career in healthcare with an entry point,” Thomas said. “The fact that trainees receive a training wage while in the program is a key component as it allows people to earn a living while learning a new career.”
Jody Pollack, Human Resources Director at Lamprey Health Care, said the Rochester healthcare provider began partnering with Great Bay in fall 2021 to help meet their clinical needs. “The need for medical assistants is greater than ever before,” she said. “Our first cohort started in September and have been in our offices for a couple of months. They are very prepared and are doing extremely well.”
Kendra Dow of Rochester enrolled in the program in September 2021, completed her externship at Rochester Hill Family Practice, and was hired soon after. She envisions the program as a steppingstone to a career as a nurse.
“The medical assistant program was a quick course, which was good for me because I am a single mom of two. I was able to take my courses and complete my externship while they were at school,” Dow said. “I liked the program because I was able to gain a better sense of the medical field, learn more in depth of what it entails, and I’m now able to work more hands-on while being able to document and work side-by-side with providers.”
Alannah Kunde graduated from the program in December 2015 and works at the Center for Wellbeing in Portsmouth. She also called the Great Bay program “the steppingstone I needed to start my career. I was very eager to join the workforce full time, and the speed of the accelerated program helped keep the finish line in sight.”
Beyond the partnerships, the quality of the professors and the program’s short duration, Vance said the soul and core success of the Medical Assistant Training Program is the diversity and commitment of the students. “Our students range in age from 19 into their 50s. Their backgrounds may or may not be in healthcare. We see those who have earned their GED and those who have earned their bachelor’s degree and plan on pursuing a career as doctor or physician’s assistant,” he said.
“The most successful students, regardless of background or experience, are those who are passionate about helping people, motivated to enter a career that is quickly changing, and understand the importance of the medical assistant role in the larger healthcare setting.”
Great Bay Community College is a comprehensive postsecondary institution offering quality academic and professional and technical education in support of workforce development and lifelong learning. Great Bay Community College is part of the Community College System of New Hampshire, a public system of higher education consisting of seven colleges in Berlin, Claremont, Laconia, Concord, Manchester, Nashua, and Portsmouth. The colleges offer Associate degrees and career training in technical, professional and general fields, including transfer pathways to baccalaureate degrees. For more information on Great Bay Community College, visit www.greatbay.edu.