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Medical Assistant Apprenticeship Program Gives Heather a New Career

Mar 10 2022

“I was a registrar, but I felt I wasn’t using my full potential,” Heather Maggard, 29, shares. “I wanted to help but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Watching the people around me, I decided there was something I could do.”

It was at that moment Heather decided to participate in our medical assistant apprenticeship program. She was one of the first 10 students to graduate from the program and all the graduates earned perfect pass rates as well as their medical assistant certification.

Medical assistants are in short supply in greater Cincinnati, where data from The Health Collaborative shows a nearly 12 percent vacancy rate and hundreds of job openings across the region’s major health systems.

To address the shortage and build a pipeline of qualified medical assistants, Mercy Health has joined forces with The Health Collaborative as well as Cincinnati State Technical and Community College to launch a medical assistant apprenticeship program. Through the program, talented employees can grow their skills and careers with employer support. And once they graduate, they are helping fill a crucial need for the role of medical assistants in our community.

So far, all of the program’s graduates have accepted or are in the process of accepting positions with Mercy Health – Cincinnati, including Heather. Formerly a registrar with Mercy Health – Clermont General Surgery, she now supports Monica Sedmak, a physician assistant at Mercy Health – Anderson Family Medicine.

One key to the program’s success is that candidates earn a salary while studying. This means that our ministry employs program participants as apprentice medical assistants while they complete their training.

“Before I learned about this medical assistant apprenticeship program, I looked at another medical assistant program available in Cincinnati, but I couldn’t do it,” Heather shares. “That program only had day classes available and I couldn’t quit my job. With Mercy Health’s program, I was able to keep my job for my family and work while I studied. It was perfect.”

The 12-month program is intensive, rigorous and competency-based. In addition to completing self-led study time, apprentices also log at least 2,000 hours of supervised on-the-job training at our facilities and 144 hours of related technical instruction provided through Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.

While it was challenging to juggle her studies and being a mom to two kids under 5, Heather made it work.

“Once I found a schedule, it was smooth sailing from there,” Heather shares. “While it was very nerve-wracking to take the final test, I was confident that I knew what I was doing.”

Today, Heather finds satisfaction in her job of helping Monica and caring for Monica’s patients.

“I do anything and everything that Monica needs me to do,” she explains. “Patients are happy to see me. A lot of people don’t like to go to the doctor, but if I can be that smiling face that makes them come to the doctor, that’s great. I love it here.”

Heather’s family is also glad she became a medical assistant and took part in the program.

“My mom is a medical assistant as well. She never thought I would do it and she’s very proud of me,” Heather shares.

Our next group of medical assistant apprentices has already started their studies, and our ministry intends to open the program to the community in the second half of 2022.

Learn about the health care services we offer at Mercy Health.

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