Earn and Learn: Medical Assistant Apprenticeship

Earn and Learn

Harley O’Hanlon and Kaitlyn Carlstad are the next generation of medical professionals.

Driven, dedicated and eager to learn more.

The Heritage Health duo were members of the first class of a new Medical Assistant Apprenticeship program from the North Idaho College Workforce Training Center in Post Falls.

Completing the program meant promotions.

“We’re so pleased that Harley and Kaitlyn committed themselves to becoming medical assistants,” said Colleen Krajack, VP of human resources at Heritage Health. “They excelled in the program. Their education is going to benefit our patients and their personal careers.”

In total, nine students graduated from the NIC Workforce Training Center program this spring, including employees from Heritage Health, Kootenai Health, Kaniksu Health, and NW Specialty Hospital. The workforce training center hopes more students will find employment as an apprentice to be eligible to enroll in the program.

“We’re thrilled at the response to this new program,” said Dotty Heberer, health professions coordinator at the NIC Workforce Training Center. “The students really embraced the curriculum.”

The Medical Assistant Apprenticeship program was developed from a grant from the Idaho Department of Labor and the Workforce Development Council.

“Heritage Health was the very first industry partner in North Idaho to become a registered apprenticeship site in North Idaho,” said Heberer. “Registered apprenticeships are a sound solution to workforce shortages.”

Several other Heritage Health employees have enrolled in the program, which resumed this fall.

“Nationally, there is a shortage of medical assistants,” said Krajack. “This apprenticeship program is excellent because it allows employers to develop and reward talent internally.”

Heritage Health helped cover the tuition costs, which enabled by O’Hanlon and Carlstad to enter the program.

Carlstad, who was hired to be a clinical assistant in 2016, said the program enabled her to become a certified medical assistant at Heritage Health’s Coeur d’Alene Clinic. She now is working in the Pain and Recovery program. “The program benefited me because it allows me to move forward with Heritage Health as a certified medical assistant and gain more experience and further my career,” said Carlstad. “Now that I finished the class, I feel accomplished and proud.”

The nine-month course covered anatomy and physiology, patient education, workplace safety, nutrition, and mental health. The curriculum also included pharmacology and dosage calculation, medical billing and coding.

“It feels great to be finished,” said O’Hanlon. “It was a great program.”

O’Hanlon was hired as a clinical assistant nearly three years ago and has been promoted to a certified medical assistant at the Coeur d’Alene clinic. She dreams of advancing her medical career and said the apprenticeship program was the critical first step.

O’Hanlon and Carlstad agree that the classroom lectures connected with the real world at Heritage Health.

“I have been able to apply the stuff I learned to my job on a daily basis, said O’Hanlon. “We also were able to give feedback to the instructor about things that are happening in the field. Being the first class made us guinea pigs, but I know future classes will benefit from it.”

Added Carlstad: “I am also very grateful for the opportunity that Heritage has given me and investing in me to further my education. Having the opportunity to further my education and work in a medical assistant role has been amazing and is really helpful.”

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