Healthcare Workforce Development Advocacy and NIMAA

By Elena Thomas Faulkner, NIMAA CEO

In February, Colorado Senator John Hickenlooper invited NIMAA to provide testimony at a hearing on the revitalization and diversification of the health care workforce.

The senator’s invitation was a welcome opportunity to deliver two messages that are core to NIMAA’s mission and goals:

  • medical assistants (and other allied health staff) play a critical role in today’s advanced primary care delivery system, serving as choreographers of interprofessional team-based care, and;
  • making entry into a health career accessible to members of underrepresented and underserved communities is an effective strategy for building a more diverse and effective health care workforce.

Health care workforce efforts at the national and state levels have historically focused on training, recruitment and retention of health care providers — the MDs, NPs and PAs who exercise clinical judgement and generate billable visits. Ask any provider, however, which member of the care team most impacts their day-to-day experience, how satisfied patients are, and how well a team does in meeting quality and productivity goals, and you will invariably hear about the medical assistant(s) on their team. 

Recruitment and retention of well-trained medical assistants is a tremendous challenge in communities across the country. It is the reason that NIMAA was founded and a primary topic of conversation at the gathering of any health care executives, clinical or operations leaders. 

Unfortunately, medical assisting is largely ignored in federal and state health workforce programs, and by educational institutions as a viable entry-point to a health career. Senator Hickenlooper’s invitation provided an opportunity to raise awareness about the vital importance of medical assistants in our health care system, and the need to invest in the MA workforce.

Norma Quinones, Nursing Services Manager and NIMAA Program Coordinator at Clinica Family Health Services, represented NIMAA at the hearing. Norma’s own story reflects that of the NIMAA students she hosts at Clinica. She was inspired to enter the medical field as a medical assistant, went on to become an LPN and now is Nursing Services Manager. Ms. Quinones spoke eloquently about how participation in NIMAA allows Clinica to provide strong employees with training they need to move into a critical clinical role. Clinica makes a substantial investment in its employees, allowing current employees in non-clinical roles to modify their work hours and retain benefits while pursuing education that will allow them to become a medical assistant, and covering the cost of their education. It’s no surprise that Clinica has been named a Denver Top Workplace 10 years in a row.

The leadership shown by Ms. Quinones and Clinica is critical to creating opportunities for members of health center communities to begin health careers and develop their talents over time. NIMAA will keep advocating for MA pathway development and is delighted to be joined in the effort by our health center partners.