HCN News & Notes

Training & Workforce Options Helps Enhance Skills of Medical Assistants

SPRINGFIELD — When Holyoke Medical Center and Western Mass Physician Associates (WMPA) needed help enhancing the skills of their medical assistants, they partnered with Training & Workforce Options (TWO).

TWO developed a curriculum and taught a 10-week class to 15 medical assistants from WMPA. The training was designed to prepare the workers for a national credentialing exam. The TWO course at Holyoke Community College (HCC) was a hybrid of classroom work and online learning taught by a medical assistant.

An additional 25 medical assistants from Holyoke Medical Center Specialty Practices enrolled in a second round of training.

TWO, a collaboration between HCC and Springfield Technical Community College, is designed to deliver high-quality, custom training solutions to the business community to boost bottom-line performance and productivity.

“At TWO, we provide training for a range of businesses throughout the region,” said Sharon Grundel, director of Corporate Training: Healthcare, Nonprofits, and Government Services. “To keep pace with new technologies in the workplace, employers realize that they must invest in skills training to retain good workers, especially in a strong economy.”

Grundel described the training TWO provided to the healthcare workforce as ‘up-skilling.’

“Up-skilling is any education, training, or development program that prepares employees with the knowledge and skills needed to advance their careers,” she said. “And companies realize that, when they invest in employees, retention improves, and that is good for the bottom line.”

Up-skilling — a smaller investment than hiring and training a new worker — serves to create a more well-rounded, cross-trained workforce, Grundel explained.

“Investing in employees is good for business in multiple ways, especially at the entry and direct-care level,” she said. “It helps boost morale. Employees who have training and development opportunities are happier in their roles and have a bright outlook on their future with the company. And that means increased customer satisfaction. When employees are happier with their company and believe in what they are working toward, they do better work.”

Holyoke Medical Center and Western Mass Physician Associates — both members of Valley Health Systems — teamed up with TWO to up-skill the medical assistants who are a critical part of their workforce, Grundel explained.

Medical assistants perform a wide array of clinical and administrative duties that require a range of technical, clinical, and administrative skills. Some medical assistants learn through their years of working on the job, while others are formally educated. As healthcare becomes more technically advanced, medical assistants are facing more federal regulations to work in the field. It is becoming more difficult for members of this profession to secure employment without credentialing.

With assistance from TWO, Western Mass Physician Associates received grant funding from the Workforce Training Fund to provide this training opportunity to 15 medical assistants in preparation for a national credentialing exam. TWO later facilitated another round of training for 25 medical assistants from Holyoke Medical Center Specialty Practices.

In addition to classroom learning, Holyoke Medical Center and Western Mass Physician Associates developed and staffed a full-scale skills day for all trainees. The session included 10 hands-on stations covering clinical and administrative tasks such as checking vital signs, administering injections and medication, taking EKG measurements, and other competency tests.

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