Program aims to combat medical assistant shortage nationwide

Posted at 2:31 PM, Oct 22, 2018

There’s a shortage of medical assistants nationwide, but a new program is working to combat it.

After losing his sales job after decades in the industry, Joe Lesniak is starting a new career in medicine.

“The last one let me go, unexpectedly, and didn't know what I wanted to do, but every test I ever took said I should be medical,” Lesniak says.

Now, this single father is working hands-on with patients. It’s all thanks to a program that’s training him to become a medical assistant. He’s also getting paid while training.

“It's the greatest decision I’ve ever made, because I just, I love people, helping people,” Lesniak says.

The partnership between Arapahoe Community College and Centura Health has condensed what's normally a two-year program down to six months of on the job and classroom learning.

“I’ve been out of college for a long time, so I wasn't sure how this was going to go,” Lesniak explains. “But it's been really good.”

It's all in an effort to fight the shortage of medical assistants around the country. With the tight labor market, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2026, employment of medical assistants will be up 29 percent from 2016 levels.

Dr. Terry Krause says she hasn't had had a permanent medical assistant in two years.

“It's difficult for me to actually do the things I need to do as a doctor without having a stable permanent medical assistant,” says Dr. Krause, who is a lead physician and lab director.

Tracy Dewitt, a lead medical assistant, says she’s happy to train Lesniak and others in the program because everyone in the office feels the impact.

“You're overworked and overrun, and doctors run behind and patients get angry,” Dewitt explains. “And it takes a lot longer to do five people’s jobs with two people.”

Lesniak says the program is a win-win.

“It doesn't matter how old you are to start something new that you love,” Lesniak says.