One of the core components of NIMAA’s mission is to provide, not only education, but employment opportunities, creating a pipeline of well-qualified medical assistants for community health centers who are from the very communities that they serve. One of NIMAA’s founding organizations, Salud Family Health, has helped us achieve this goal in northeast and southeast Colorado since our inception in 2016. Salud has supported 56 total graduates in completing the NIMAA program across 9 cohorts between 2016 and 2022.
Salud’s Medical Training Manager and NIMAA Program Coordinator Jinnie Chieppo attributed the success of NIMAA students to several factors, including:
- Making sure potential students understand how much time they have to dedicate to the program
- Providing a very in-depth externship orientation that covers policies and student expectations
- Offering additional practice time to students when needed
- Choosing preceptors that are excited to work with students
- Providing preceptor stipends to account for the additional responsibility and encourage high-quality engagement with students
- Monthly preceptor meetings to discuss challenges and share advice
According to Chieppo, when Salud hires MA graduates from other programs, they struggle to learn Salud’s Electronic Health Record system, run labs, and master basic medical assisting skills and processes at their clinics. “MA graduates from NIMAA are ready to hit the floor running the day they are hired, [whereas] medical assistants hired from other programs take about 60-90 days to get up to speed,” said Chieppo. “When you experience success and are a productive team member from the start, you are going to be more satisfied [with your job],” and that can lead to longevity with an employer.
The below chart shows the hire and retention rate of the 56 NIMAA graduates at Salud since 2016.
For Salud, there is more to the NIMAA partnership than just hiring well-trained medical assistants. “The big mission is to become an educating health care center,” Chieppo explains. “Salud wants to help train the next [generation] of healthcare workers to support the variety of needs that patients in their communities have,” even if they are taking those skills and lessons to other employers in the area. Salud hopes to give all students of various training levels, from nurse practitioners to physician assistants to medical assistants, an opportunity to see what a community health center is, how they benefit the community, and how to help those underserved. By providing learning opportunities in community health centers, Salud is giving students and residents “personal experience and a pathway to becoming a community leader and helper in a healthcare facility.”