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May 15, 2018

SMCC launches apprenticeship program for medical assistants

About the partners

Southern Maine Community College is Maine's largest and oldest community college. Founded in 1946, SMCC offers courses at its South Portland and Brunswick campuses, at community satellite locations and online. SMCC has among the lowest tuition and fees in New England and offers more than 40 degree programs.

Southern Maine Health Care is a national award-winning health care system with a nonprofit mission "to improve the health and health care of the communities we serve." SMHC includes a full service, acute care medical center in Biddeford, with York County's only inpatient mental health unit. Emergency care, surgical services, and diagnostic and therapy services are available at SMHC's Medical Centers in Biddeford and Sanford. SMHC offers primary care and multi-specialty physician services, diagnostic and therapy services, and Walk-In Care centers in various York County communities including Biddeford, Kennebunk, Saco, Sanford, North Berwick and Waterboro. SMHC is Joint Commission accredited and has been recognized for quality excellence by numerous outside organizations.

Maine Medical Partners is the largest network of primary care and specialty practices in Maine with more than 50 practice and outreach locations across Maine and New Hampshire. Maine Medical Partners is a department of Maine Medical Center and a member of the MaineHealth system, a growing family of health care services in northern New England.

Southern Maine Community College, in partnership with Maine Medical Partners and Southern Maine Health Care, is launching a new medical assisting apprenticeship program. Students will learn medical assisting skills in the classroom and apply them on the job while employed by Maine Medical Partners and Southern Maine Health Care.

MMP and SMHC are members of MaineHealth, the state's largest health care organization.

Through the apprenticeship, 10 participants will work with medical assistants for 20 hours a week at MMP offices in the Portland area and at SMHC in Biddeford. At the same time, they will receive blended classroom and online instruction from SMCC medical assisting instructors to be applied toward an SMCC certificate in medical assisting. The credits earned can also be applied toward an associate degree in medical assisting.

"Medical assistants are in high demand in the workforce," said SMCC President Ron Cantor. "The aging baby boomer population will continue to increase demand for preventive medical services, requiring doctors to hire more medical assistants. Apprenticeships are effective tools for learning, career development and developing expertise in a given field."

Employment of medical assistants is projected to grow 29% from 2016 to 2026, far faster than the 7.4% growth for all occupations, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meeting a growing need

Medical assistants take vital signs, blood pressure and pulses of patients, review their medication and prepare them for examination. They also update patient medical records, fill out insurance forms and handle correspondence and billing.

"Many medical conditions are now treated on an outpatient basis rather than in a hospital setting, so outpatient care is much more complex," said SMHC Clinical Director of Practice Operations Louise Beaulieu. "This opportunity for students to have a whole year of hands-on experience is an optimum way for them to learn. It will not only help fill the void we have in southern Maine for skilled staff, but prepare the students extremely well. This is a very exciting opportunity."

The new apprenticeship program begins May 15 and takes a little over a year. Upon completion, participants will take a national accreditation exam to become certified medical assistants.

Funding is provided through the Maine Quality Centers, which is part of the Maine Community College System and provides customized workforce training grants to Maine employers, with training delivered through SMCC and Maine's other community colleges.

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