2017-12-29 / Opinion

Job Shadows Reap Benefits


Ronald G. Cantor Ronald G. Cantor For her Introduction to Medical Assisting class, Caitlin Martel-Harrington spent part of a day at a healthcare clinic, shadowing an employee to get a better idea of what a medical assistant’s job is all about.

Thanks to our partnership with Martin’s Point Health Care — and our commitment to hands-on education — Caitlin and other students were able to work oneon one with a medical assistant at the Martin’s Point Farley Road Health Care Center in Brunswick. The experience gave her a better understanding of the job and reinforced her decision to become a medical assistant.

“This was the first time I had been able to see a medical assistant in the field, which was cool,” she said. “Rather than just learning from textbooks, you get to see it first-hand.”

Medical assistants are “a vital cog in the medical system,” says Nina Huntington, chair of SMCC’s Medical Assisting program. They work alongside physicians, mainly in medical offices and clinics, performing both clinical and administrative duties.

Medical assistants take the vital signs, blood pressure and pulses of patients, review their medication and prepare them for examination. They draw blood and assist with minor medical procedures. They update patient medical records, fill out insurance forms and handle correspondence and billing.

They are also in demand. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of medical assistants was projected to grow 29 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. The aging baby boomer population will continue to increase demand for preventive medical services, requiring doctors to hire more medical assistants.

The job shadow arrangement in Brunswick strengthens the partnership we already have with Martin’s Point Health Care, one of Maine’s leading healthcare organizations.

In November, students in our Health Sciences academic program spent time with the CEO and other administrators at the Martin’s Point administrative campus in Portland. The visit allowed students to get an on-the-job feel for administrative jobs in a healthcare setting.

SMCC has a long history of working in partnership with businesses, organizations, other educational institutions, individuals and others to fulfill our mission.

Job shadowing is an effective tool for learning, career development and developing expertise in a given field. So when the offer was made to allow students from our Midcoast Campus at Brunswick Landing to spend time at a Martin’s Point office in December, Huntington jumped at the chance.

Caitlin Martel-Harrington earned a bachelor’s degree after graduating from high school in 2009. But after a couple of years in the workforce, she decided to enroll at SMCC and change careers. Shadowing somebody on the job has confirmed that she made the right decision.

“It helps you visualize and see what you’ve been learning about at school,” she said. “The only thing I wish was different was that I had gotten to stay longer.”

Having gained solid skills, upon graduation Caitlyn looks forward to many years of success in her new career.

Ron Cantor is the president of Southern Maine Community College.

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