Innovative high school program helping to fill demand for medical assistants

Innovative high school program helping to fill demand for medical assistants

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a classroom at Waipahu High School on Friday, Kapiolani Community College instructor Latanya Edwards quizzed 18 students on medical terminology.

"We all know about HIPAA, which stands for?" she asked.

The seniors from four different high schools are enrolled in a new program that trains them to become professional medical assistants.

Waipahu High School student Kristine Ramirez loves it.

"This is a step further into something I want to do. It's getting my feet wet," she said.

The 15-month program led by KCC instructors was developed by Hawaii Pacific Health to fill the growing need for medical assistants in doctor's offices and clinics.

HPH decided to offer training to high school seniors.

"From a medical assistant they may see that with a little more education they could move on into a different position with organizations like ours and others in the state," said Carl Hinson, Hawaii Pacific Health's director of Workforce Development.

The students underwent a screening process to measure their interest in the field, and to ensure they could handle the workload.

They meet three times a week in the classroom and train in a clinical setting on Saturdays.

"I feel like starting as a medical assistant is a good opportunity for me to gain experience working in the health care field," Pearl City senior Abigail Bolibol said.

Lessons cover administrative and clinical responsibilities, from filing paperwork to working directly with patients.

"It's very hands on," Waipahu student Deidrick Corpuz said. "We get to learn how to do CPR, take vitals, apply bandages, and put on personal protective equipment," he said.

The payoff will come when they complete the program and pass a national certification exam.

"They're guaranteed jobs in the pilot program this year," Hinson said. "So far we've got a number of employers stepping up saying that they will look at next year's program, and provide employment for them as well."

Next year, the medical assistant training program will expand to include more high schools and up to 80 students. Hinson said, as far as he can tell, it’s the only program of its kind in the U.S.

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