COVID-19 changed almost everything in our world, and that was certainly true at NIMAA as well. Our students, externship sites, and instructors all had to make adjustments to how they learned, interacted, and taught. NIMAA takes place both online and in a clinic setting, and both of those components come together to provide a blended student experience to prepare NIMAA graduates to step right into a successful career as an MA.

As part of the precautions taken to protect students’ health, students stopped going into their externship sites prior to the end of term. Since many of our externship organizations were in all hands on deck situations, their staff no longer had the time to dedicate themselves fully to the student experience. Students had to adjust to this change, and our instructors stepped up to the plate to help supplement some of the lost opportunity to engage with a clinical team.

One place where our students’ flexibility & ingenuity were on full display was our last Interactive Week. Typically, Interactive Week provides an opportunity for students to work through a real patient case.  Each term the case becomes more complex, and students have to apply the knowledge they’ve gained in the course content along with the critical thinking skills they are developing. They then engage with the team at their externship site to help them understand how their case would be handled at the health centers they are in.  

In light of the necessary changes due to COVID-19, students weren’t able to have their same Interactive Week experience. Instead, they began interacting with each other more, discussing and sharing what they had learned at their sites, and using that information to develop their case summaries.  We found that they became more of a peer learning community when they had to rely on each other for experiential knowledge.  

We are so proud of the way our students adapted to these very difficult circumstances, and still found ways to succeed. We are confident they are going to take these skills with them as they begin working in their communities as medical assistants!