Medical assistant apprenticeship addresses shortage of workers

MADISON, Wis (WMTV) - Medical assistants have a crucial role in a doctors’ office, but according to health officials, there is a shortage in the Madison area which could lead to longer wait times for patients.

The UW Health Medical Assistant Registered Apprenticeship program is helping to address the gap by allowing entry-level employees train for the job.

The program, which is the first and only of its kind in the state, launched in Dec. and includes an 11-month course.

Bridgett Willey, director of Allied Health Education and Career Pathways with UW Health, said the role is a main support for physicians.

“They are also the support person that helps the physician, or nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant provide care, so they might be coming back to do hearing testing or an EKG,” she said.

According to UW-Health, there are currently 60 openings, with the organization aiming to hire 190 every year. Willey said a lack of medical assistants can mean delayed care for patients wanting to see a doctor.

Briane’ Roberts, a current student in the program, said she was working as a supply clerk in the mail room at University Hospital. She said she has always wanted to be in the medical field, and this is giving her the chance to do what she loves and move toward being a registered nurse.

“I always wanted to be a nurse. Being in this program and in the medical field has actually opened me up to figuring out what I really wanted to do,” she said.

She said she lost her mother to lupus in 2012, which inspired her to help others just like medical professional helped her family.

“Just being around the people in the medical field. We were in and out of the hospital for at least 12 years, and I met so many wonderful people,” she said.

The program, paid for in grant money, pays those in the program while they train. 19 employees from the first class will graduate on Nov. 8 at the Health Sciences Learning Center.

Roberts said she already accepted a job at the UW Health University Station clinic where she trained.