NIMAA Success Story

Twice a year since 2019, Erie Family Health Centers has welcomed aspiring medical assistants to kickstart their careers through its partnership with the National Institute of Medical Assistant Advancement (NIMAA) program.

Twice a year since 2019, Erie Family Health Centers has welcomed aspiring medical assistants to kickstart their careers through its partnership with the National Institute of Medical Assistant Advancement (NIMAA) program.

NIMAA is a nonprofit education institute that trains students through a hands-on learning experience in leading primary care clinics such as Erie. Erie acts as the externship organization for the program that provides the clinical exposure needed to transition into a full-time medical professional successfully.

Erie’s eight-month program is split into two cohorts. The city cohort, out of Erie Division Street Health Center and Erie Helping Hands Health Center, starts in the Fall and traditionally welcomes approximately six students. The suburban cohort, which takes place in the Spring, welcomes up to eight students—four at Erie Evanston/Skokie Health Center and four at Erie HealthReach Waukegan Health Center.

Students gain more than 240 hours of clinical experience throughout the program.

Post-graduation, most students are offered an opportunity to be a part of the Erie family through a full-time medical assistant position. All graduates of the Spring 2022 cohort joined Erie as full-time medical assistants.

Since its first externship in the Fall of 2019, Erie has welcomed 17 medical assistants to its staff directly from the program.

With the help of private donations, Erie fully covers for the $6,000 tuition cost for anyone who completes the program and performs 2,500 hours of service, a year and a half, at Erie post-graduation. This gives future professionals a chance to learn and gain experience in a stress-free environment.

The flexibility of the NIMAA program and Erie's externship provided people such as Maria Almanza, a recent graduate of the program, an opportunity to pursue a career she was forced to put on hold.

"Ever since I was in high school, I knew I wanted to do something in healthcare," said Maria. "I started by attending a few healthcare-based schools, but I never knew where I fit within the healthcare system. Ten years before my externship with Erie, I researched medical assistants, and I found that was what I wanted to do, but I wasn't successful. Now being in it, it feels great. Erie paying my tuition was also great because getting an education is tough and expensive."

Erie’s Senior Director of Programs and Health Equity Josie Llaneza prides Erie on its determination to create a space where students are encouraged to be successful throughout the program.

"The way Erie structured the program is important because we want to reduce barriers for individuals from the communities, we serve to get this opportunity and training," said Josie. "We want to tackle one of the key social determinants of health - having access to high-quality education that allows you to get a job that is a living wage, provides opportunities for growth and continued education if that's the route you choose."

Programs like these also help Erie find medical assistants during a time when healthcare centers and hospitals all over the country are experiencing a shortage of medical professionals.

Another significant aspect of this program is how attentive Erie's staff is when working with the students participating in the externship.

This attentiveness allowed students to gain enough confidence to complete the program and be outstanding Medical Assistants at Erie.

"I had amazing preceptors throughout the program. They were always very warm and willing to help. I never felt judged, like I was not learning at the speed they needed me to. I was very much encouraged when making mistakes and learning from my mistakes. And even now that I'm new, I still get the same friendship-like treatment. It feels good to have someone help you and have your back." said Maria.

Maria stated that her enthusiasm to work at Erie stems from her successful experience with NIMAA.

"I'm super grateful for the whole process in general because I've never heard of anywhere that does this, where you can do online classes on your terms and an externship at the same time," said Maria

Learn about the NIMAA program at Erie.

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