Ensuring Day-One Ready Skills through Revamped Medical and Dental Assistant Programs

July 17, 2017 | By Brian Lee and Kim Ortega

Over the next several years, the demand for medical and dental assistants is expected to grow much faster than many other occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of medical assistants and dental assistants is projected to grow 23 percent and 18 percent, respectively, from 2014 to 2024.

As part of a broader effort to help bridge our nation’s skills gap, Altierus is working to help meet this demand by producing graduates who can enter the workforce day-one ready, with the skills and training health care employers are seeking. We recently implemented a number of enhancements to our Medical Assistant offering through the creation of a new curricula redesign process and the acquisition of new medical and dental equipment, providing students with training in advanced methods.

In 2016, our Tacoma campus was awarded more than $190,000 in grant funds to provide students with the same cutting-edge equipment found in hospitals, medical centers and dental offices. These grants are part of Zenith’s Campaign for Innovation, an initiative to elicit and fund selected creative, actionable and measurable ideas from campus employees about how to promote student success. Tacoma’s Medical Assistant and Dental Assistant programs each received 15 to 20 pieces of equipment to help enhance the student learning experience, such as the High Fidelity Simulator, which replicates patient conditions and illnesses so that students can practice response and patient interaction based on real-life scenarios. By having the latest technologies at their fingertips, students can gain the skills and confidence to succeed on the job even before they’ve graduated.

These equipment upgrades build on the thoughtful and robust curriculum reform effort developed last year using faculty and employer insight to align the lessons students are learning in the classroom with the real-time skills employers are seeking. Through that initiative, we established a robust faculty working group that surveyed more than 150 health care employers. Then we updated the medical assistant program curricula to better align with those employers’ preferred skills and certifications. This refresh process is complete for our Medical Assistant programs at all Altierus campuses and is underway for our Dental Assistant programs.

At a time when shortages in skilled labor are burdening the health care industry, innovative approaches like these are empowering our students with the tools they need to graduate and confidently enter the workforce day-one ready.

Brian Lee is the Academic Dean and Director of Education in the Office of Academic Administration at the Altierus College Tacoma Campus.

Kim Ortega is the AVP of Healthcare Diploma Programs and Dean of Curriculum for the Zenith’s Medical Assistant programs.