June 21, 2018
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Prognosis excellent for new cooperative medical job training program

By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A new medical job training program created by a federal grant and a first-time partnership with Eastern Maine Development Corporation, Penobscot Community Health Care and Bangor Adult Education isn’t even a year old, but it’s already getting an excellent prognosis.

“This is the first time we’ve partnered with PCHC for a training program like this, and the same thing for Bangor Adult Ed,” said Melissa Gerety, EMDC’s director of communications. “The thing that sets this apart is it’s also career advisement. There’s so much more that is included beyond traditional skills training.”

The medical office assistant training program is a one-year course which includes both training and job placement assistance. A recent program “graduate” from Bangor Adult Education and the first-ever class — which began May 14 and finished with certification exams on Feb. 1 — has already been hired.

“One of the graduates is working in health information systems for Eastern Maine Medical Center,” said Theresa Mudgett, EMDC’s regional coordinator for health care sector grants. “A job opening came up and she slid into it seamlessly. That served as an instant testimonial for us.”

The current program — the first at PCHC — began Feb. 15 and will continue through a five-week “core” course before the more advanced instruction and training begins. That phase will last 16 weeks and will produce graduates who will be proficient either as clinical or administrative medical office assistants.

PCHC will start a third course — and Bangor Adult Education its second — in April. In all, EMDC and PCHC expect to have 36 assistants trained and certified by the time all three courses finish up. Bangor Adult Ed will have 30-40 graduates who will earn 60-hour WorkReady training certificates.

The grant funding the program came from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Mudget said Maine received $4.3 million in funding overall, but she was unsure how much of that went into the medical training program.

This program is a first in another way.

“It’s also a first where a business came to us with a need for a program to train employees to do certain medical office skills,” Mudgett explained. “There’s tremendous demand.”

Both Mudgett and Jennifer McBee, PCHC’s training and development director and director of medical records and referral, said health care is experiencing extraordinarily rapid growth.

“We’ve had so many openings for entry-level positions at area health care clinics and services the last couple years, and there just wasn’t the number of people necessary to fill those positions locally,” said McBee.

In addition to the core training program offered by both PCHC and Bangor Adult Ed, more advanced training and instruction is also offered. Bangor Adult Ed’s sessions are six to nine hours a week spread out over three classes. PCHC’s schedule utilizes full class days of six hours on Mondays and Fridays and three hours on Wednesdays.

“There is more of a classroom structure with a teacher,” said McBee. “Ours is more hands-on. A lot of what we do is soft skills training like communication, customer service, cultural diversity, et cetera.”

The training also includes medical terminology 101 and electronic health record training. There’s also advanced training for Microsoft Word and Excel, anatomy and physiology.

The program is simply an adaptation of the one PCHC has been using for more than a year to train their own employees.

A request for an extension on program funding was granted, allowing it to continue through June, but Mudget, McBee and Gerety said the program won’t stop there.

“We do see this continuing well beyond June,” McBee said. “There are so many talented people who are unemployed right now who could really thrive with this ”

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