The Allied Health Division and the Dean of Instruction are in the final phases of the creation of a new health careers program for GCC. The Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) program will be a two-semester certificate program with a six-week summer practicum. This program will be offered on the main campus in Ironwood.
Medical Assistants are multi-skilled health professionals who work primarily in ambulatory care centers hospital laboratories, physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, and other health practitioners offices. The duties of medical assistants vary from office to office, depending on the location and size of the practice and the practitioner's specialty. Their education includes office practices, reception, coding, billing and insurance. They are also trained to assist the healthcare provider with examinations, minor surgery, and preparation of the patient, diagnostic testing and laboratory procedures. The college determined the need for this program in 2011 under the direction of Ken Trzaska, Dean of Instruction.
A Health Careers Feasibility Project was conducted in three phases. Phase one included focus groups representing clinics, hospitals and long term care facilities in Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton and Ontonagon Counties in Michigan and Ashland and Iron Counties in Wisconsin. Phase two consisted of a survey of healthcare providers in Ashland, Iron and Vilas counties in Wisconsin. Phase three included an electronic survey and phone interviews with the nurse executives of the Upper Peninsula Nurse Executive and the Upper Peninsula Healthcare Network. Two questions were asked of all participants: What healthcare professionals and support staff do you currently employ and what are your current and future staffing needs?
The results showed that all health care facilities currently employ registered nurses and will continue to need them in the future. Licensed Practical Nurses are employed primarily in long term care settings and some clinics. Many clinics indicated they are currently looking for Certified Medical Assistants due to their versatility. Several hospital laboratories indicated they would like to hire Medical Assistants due to their broad training including phlebotomy. Certified Nurse Aides or Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) are currently employed in hospitals, and long term care facilities. There is a constant need for CNA’s primarily in long term care facilities and home health. This study also revealed a need for all therapy services in all settings. This would include Physical, Occupational, Speech and Respiratory Therapy. Therapy assistants (Associate Degree) are also needed. The gap in this group is being filled by contracted services for Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy.
The focus groups and clinics ranked the need for Certified Medical Assistants as number one. In discussions with the nurse executive throughout the Upper Peninsula they indicated a desire to employ CMA’s in clinics and some hospital departments if they were available. The same was true of the clinic settings in Wisconsin. Hospitals staffing needs are respiratory therapy assistants (Associate degree) and other therapists and assistants. In addition many are currently recruiting physicians, nurse practitioners and radiology technicians.
Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that “the Certified Medical Assistant is among the fastest growing occupations over the 2001-18 decades. Job prospects should be excellent.”
The Certified Medical Assistant Program was presented to The Gogebic Community College Curriculum Committee for review November 2011, with first read approval in January 2012.