This blog features a story on Lahey Hospital and Medical Center (LHMC), one of the 59 grant projects being funded by the Health Care Workforce Transformation Fund (HCWTF). Grant funds are helping to increase the clinical and direct patient care skills of Medical and Clinic Assistants working in primary care practices.

LHMC has implemented the beginning stages of a comprehensive training program designed to expand the role of medical assistants (MAs) and clinic assistants (CAs) across the organization’s 18 primary care locations. This training program is linked to LHMC’s Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) initiative, which encourages clinicians and all primary care staff to work together to provide integrated and efficient care.

“The PCMH model calls for medical assistants to play a much more active role in patient care than they ever have before,” said Ann Piette, MS, RN-BC, Director of Nursing for the Division of Primary Care and project co-director. “This training will prepare our medical and clinic assistants to help educate patients about their health, and also engage in their care in new ways.” In July, LHMC, in partnership with Middlesex Community College, began implementing the first of four training modules to help medical and clinic assistants prepare for their expanding roles. Modules cover basic information and more advanced skills, such as team-based care, population health management and adult and pediatric preventive care. With three modules in total, and an additional fourth for medical and clinic assistants at the Burlington and Peabody sites, the full training is expected to be completed by December 2016. Leah Cappos, a medical assistant at Lahey Health Primary Care, Ipswich, recently completed the second module, which focuses on motivational interviewing — a method of talking with patients to determine their readiness to change unhealthy behaviors and improve health literacy. “I learned a lot from this session. It was an eye-opener when it comes to patients being in control of their own health,” said Cappos. “I think what we learned is going to impact our office in a very positive way.” The training program follows months of preparation and research by LHMC’s Nursing and Human Resources departments in conjunction with the Division of Primary Care. An earlier $50,000 planning grant allowed LHMC to identify that expanding the role of MAs was a key priority in the PCMH model. Clinic assistants, whose roles are very similar to MAs, will have the opportunity to sit for the National Health Career Association’s Certified Clinical Medical Assistant Exam. Successful completion of this exam would mean that clinic assistants can apply for medical assistant positions within LHMC, resulting in professional growth and development. Cappos is looking forward to completing her training because she feels it will benefit her professional growth. “It’s great that medical assistants are becoming more involved in patient care,” she said, “In my mind, that’s good for everyone involved.” Source: December 2015, January 2016 Spectrum; Lahey Health