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Supporting the Medical Assistant through a Structured, Innovative Internship Program

Credits: None available.

As the patient-centered medical home model stresses the importance of the team-based approach as a foundation to improving care, costs, and patient experience, the need for supporting medical assistants in the ambulatory care setting with a new innovative way was recognized. High-performing care teams and expanded roles have been shown to improve health outcomes for the chronically ill and improve team and patient satisfaction. Historically, primary care practices relied on clinicians to provide the totality of preventive, chronic, and acute care for patients. Recent literature has highlighted the logistical challenges associated with this model. Medical assistants (MAs) and other professionals are increasingly being called upon to perform key roles on the care team even as traditional educational programs may not equip them for this new way of working. Medical assistants play a crucial role on the ambulatory health care team and are one of the fastest growing health professions.
Challenges to expanding the medical assistant role include quality and safety assurance, confusion about scope of practice, and clinician comfort with expanded MA responsibilities. With the growing complexity of the MA role, we recognize the need to support newly hired team members with a foundation for success. To address this challenge, we developed an innovative internship program for medical assistants (MAs) within our large medical group with over 600 clinic locations throughout North Carolina and South Carolina. This internship supports the needs of team members with various knowledge and skill backgrounds, with the aim of building confidence and competence in foundational knowledge to ensure delivery of quality patient care utilizing evidence-based standards.
Our medical assistant internship program expands our standard orientation from one week to a focused six weeks consisting of a combination of instructor-led training and hands-on practice in both the classroom and clinic setting. The internship focuses on topics and skills required in their role including scope of practice, rooming process, medication administration, chronic disease management, and more. It allows our new MAs to work in tandem with ambulatory care clinical educators, medical group clinics, and their preceptors. For two weeks on Mondays and Tuesdays, they follow a hybrid didactic format concentrating on scope and skills. The MAs then spend Wednesday through Friday with their preceptor training in the clinic. The internship schedule concludes with the team members receiving continued support from their preceptor in the clinic for the next one to two weeks and adapting to specific team members’ needs. Preceptors are further supported with new team member onboarding with standardized guides, including orientation roadmaps and competency tools. With the growing complexity of the medical assistant role, this structured internship program provides a bridge that anchors and advances the knowledge and skill that leads to improved competency during their onboarding process.



Credits: None available.

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