CCV/BMH partnership addresses healthcare workforce shortage

BRATTLEBORO — The next group of College to Career Program students will begin classes later this January to become medical assistants at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.

The program, developed in 2016, pairs classroom learning at Community College of Vermont with clinical training at BMH. In just one semester, students get the education and training they need to begin a career in healthcare.

The program is described in a news release from CCV as a “unique solution” to a local shortage of qualified medical assistants, which mirrors the statewide deficit of workers throughout the healthcare system.

“We were having major challenges recruiting for a significantly growing need for medical assistants,” BMH president and CEO Steven Gordon said in a news release. “We had to have a better way to do it and really to help in growing the pipeline for new medical assistants.”

So BMH and CCV joined forces, using the college's existing medical assisting certificate to develop the accelerated apprenticeship program. Each year, BMH recruits a class of 20 students, offering full scholarships to eight applicants, along with guaranteed employment at the hospital upon program completion.

Sue Jones participated in the program in the fall of 2020, after Covid disrupted her career as a teacher.

“The most rewarding part of the program is learning,” Jones said. “Knowing the information taught was all relevant to the job of being a medical assistant made it all interesting.” Jones is now retired from teaching and is working as a medical assistant at a family practice.

CCV was the right partner for this work, Gordon said, because the college can tailor programs to meet the needs of healthcare institutions. The impact has been “absolutely huge” and “a real game-changer,” he said.

In 2018, CCV and BMH used the College to Career program to design a similar program to train workers for jobs in environmental services.

Gordon believes the medical assistant program can be a valuable blueprint as Vermont continues to face workforce shortages in healthcare.

“I'm proud to have worked with (1)[CCV president Joyce Judy]on this program,” he said. “I've held it up as a model. We've got to look at continuously doing something different.”

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