As new students prepare to start school, they think about the supplies they will need, how to study, and what they will learn. Something that is just as important, but sometimes overlooked, is creating support systems that will help them succeed in their new academic adventure.
The National Institute for Medical Assistant Advancement (NIMAA) was designed with non-traditional students in mind. NIMAA staff understand not all students have a strong external support system of family and friends to help with studying, childcare, financial support, and encouragement. Our instructors and student services staff help students identify the support they do have, and address challenges when they come up.
NIMAA instructors and staff work closely with students through the entire student lifecycle and are integral to supporting student success. While NIMAA can’t fill in for a sick child care provider or bring a snack to a student as they study, we can help students develop plans for success and problem-solve around challenges.
Students who receive high-touch support have a better chance of succeeding. At NIMAA, we have seen that students with strong support systems are more likely to:
- have higher overall grades for the program;
- have better attendance to all school-related activities;
- demonstrate more confidence with their school work; and
- demonstrate professionalism.
Ways that NIMAA supports its students include:
- Provides students with clear directions and expectations
NIMAA makes sure students know what is expected of them when they start the program, and for each assignment. This helps student develop a specific plan for success. Clear and complete assignment directions make it simple for students to understand what is expected of them, and help prevent them from becoming discouraged.
- Shows students understanding of their unique situation
NIMAA student services staff and instructors work with students to identify barriers students face and offer guidance when possible. One NIMAA instructor frequently paraphrases what she learned from her own college professor: “the only thing I cannot help you with is not knowing when you need support.” This simple statement encourages students to seek help when they need it, even if they felt embarrassed to seek advice. Instructors help students think through options so that they can identify a path or solution that works for them.
- Offers flexibility
NIMAA encourages students to address challenges proactively. If a student cannot complete an assignment on time because of a barrier, instructors can help them come up with a plan, and may allow more time on the assignment if feasible. NIMAA instructors work with students to find a solution to their barriers so they stay on track and finish on time.
- Provides students with guidance
NIMAA instructors hold weekly huddles during which students meet and discuss their concerns and ask questions about assignments. Having this regularly scheduled time explicitly dedicated to answer questions and address academic challenges eliminates the need for students to reach out to the instructor to schedule a meeting – a step that can often feel like a barrier to students who are struggling. It also heps students learn from and support each other, and encourages them to continue forward even when they are feeling challenged.
- Instructors meet students where they are
NIMAA instructors understand that not all students enter the program with the same needs, and some will require a little more guidance than others. Some have been out of school for a long time, and some are not yet comfortable in a clinical setting. It is essential to remember that some students are not receiving support from their friends and family, and they may have had negative experiences with staff at other schools. NIMAA works to meet each student where they are and build rapport with them as individuals. Building this trust up front helps students remember that the NIMAA team is a reliable source of support when they face challenges.
Helping students identify their support systems helps empower them to succeed despite challenges, both personal and educational, that may arise throughout the course of their training. NIMAA invests time in fostering support systems to help each student reach their fullest potential and set future graduates up for success.