Using “earn-learn” model to take off on a new career path in healthcare
Lenna Sinclaire Bennett and Rebecca Shaw are healthcare apprentices currently employed at Core Physicians, a community based, multi-specialty group practice affiliated with Exeter Health Resources. Lenna is a Certified Medical Assistant (MA), and Rebecca is a Medical Office Specialist (MOS). Prior to their apprenticeships, Lenna and Rebecca had no previous experience in patient/healthcare.
Thanks to a partnership between Exeter Health Resources and Great Bay Community College’s Business and Training Center, Lenna and Rebecca were able to go back to school and learn new skills that would allow them to make career changes while earning wages and benefits from their new employer. Lenna’s MA apprenticeship consisted of 480 hours of classroom instruction and 3,600 hours of on-the-job training. Rebecca’s MOS apprenticeship consisted of 240 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. Both apprentices participated in hands-on, interactive training that took place at their job site. Lenna and Rebecca had one-on-one mentors who worked with and supported them over the course of their apprenticeships as they learned new skills.
Lenna and Rebecca recently sat down with us to talk about what their apprenticeship experience has meant to them. Here’s what they had to say.
ANH: Why did you apply to the MA/MOS apprenticeship program at Core Physicians?
Lenna: I always knew that I wanted to work with people. In healthcare, I knew I’d have the opportunity to do that more than I would in previous jobs. I had also read a lot about what Core Physicians does to give back to the community, and that really spoke to me as well.
Rebecca: This was a completely different job for me – I had never worked in an office before, but I really felt like I needed a change. I knew this was something I wanted to do.
ANH: What were you doing before you enrolled in the program? Without this apprenticeship, would you have considered pursuing a career in healthcare?
Rebecca: Before I enrolled in the MOS program, I was working in another hospital in food service and catering. I had been doing that for about ten years, but I knew I really needed a change because there weren’t any growth opportunities for me in that job. If I hadn’t found this opportunity, I’d definitely still be at that job. It was really daunting and scary to think about starting a new career, and it was especially scary thinking about having to go back to school. I hadn’t been a student for a long time. I also have two children, so the thought of having to come home every night to do homework and study for tests was a lot. Exeter Health Resources paid for us to go to class, so that made the transition a lot easier.
Lenna: Before I became an MA, I was working in food processing for a manufacturing plant out of state. I started doing that when I was 19 years old. I didn’t go to college and I didn’t really have any education beyond high school. I honestly just kind of fell into the job because it was a good opportunity for me at the time. I know that without this apprenticeship, it definitely would have been more challenging for me to pursue a new career. Without the assistance from Great Bay Community College and Exeter Health Resources, I probably would have needed at least one or two other jobs which would have made it hard for me to focus and be successful. For them to take a chance on me and say that they were going to pay for me to go back to school really made all the difference.
ANH: How will this new job help you meet any personal or professional goals you might have?
Lenna: There are so many opportunities in healthcare and becoming an MA has set me up well for future jobs. I do everything from assisting with general surgery in the office to filing and taking care of paperwork, making appointments, etc. I feel like all of these duties could transfer well into other jobs in this office or in a hospital.
ANH: What was the program like? How did the classroom instruction prepare you for the things you’d be learning and doing on-the-job?
Rebecca: The program started with 12 weeks of classroom instruction at Great Bay Community College. The first six weeks, we spent learning about the medical office setting and what to expect when working with patients. The remaining six weeks were spent learning medical terminology. I feel like everything I learned in class helped me understand what I’d actually be doing in my job.
Lenna: Before starting class, I went through the WorkReadyNH program which was a pre-requisite. Even though I’ve been working for a while, it’s been about six years since I started a new job. I know that the job market and employer expectations have changed since then, so it was nice to “freshen” up on some of the job readiness skills that are taught in the program.
The MA classroom instruction was very rigorous and helped prepare me for my job and understand what the expectations were. I also did a four-week practicum in the office which really set me up for success as well. Now that I’ve completed the course and passed my Certified Clinical Medical Assistant exam, I am a full-time employee at Core Physicians.
ANH: What advice would you give to someone else who might be considering participating in a healthcare apprenticeship?
Lenna: Don’t be afraid of the transition. No matter what your background or experience is, a new career is going to be a challenge. I tried to just focus on the end result. Reminding myself that I could make it through the three months of class with a well-paying job at the end made it so worth it. I love what I do now. It really turned out for the best.
Rebecca: You should do it! My life has improved so much since beginning my apprenticeship. I met a lot of great people that I’m still in touch with.
ANH: If you could describe this program and experience in one word or short sentence, what would you say?
Lenna: Opportunity is there. This program reaffirmed my belief that you can actually have a job that you love, and you don’t have to just settle for what’s getting you by.
Rebecca: This program was so exciting…it really felt like an adventure.
Interested in becoming an apprentice? Start here!