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Community college medical assisting program working to fill needs at Iowa hospitals

Medical assistants have a wide variety of tasks, usually within outpatient settings like hospitals or clinics.
Published: Mar. 7, 2022 at 11:15 AM CST
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WATERLOO, Iowa (KCRG) - Medical assistants have a wide variety of tasks, usually within outpatient settings like hospitals or clinics. They greet patients, take their information and record their vitals.

It’s a career in high demand right now. Now, Hawkeye Community College is working to fill that need in eastern Iowa.

Jakob Winter is a student in the program.

“We’re very hands-on,” Winter said. “I recently was in a nursing program, but I switched over to this because they were MA’s work, more where I want to work, and I really liked how we get to, like, do patient education.”

Holly Berbitsky is an instructor and started the medical assisting program. She moves with the students through their courses.

“The cool thing about a medical assistant is they can do front office, back office and lab,” Berbitsky said. “So they’re trained in those three components. We do injections, we perform EKG, we perform spirometry, and we perform a lot of the lab, we do vitals we do intake. So a lot of the same skills. It’s just in the outpatient setting.”

She says there are many benefits to being a medical assistant.

“It’s an outpatient setting,” she said. “So you’re working Monday through Friday, nine to five, you’re not doing holidays, you’re not doing nights, you’re not doing weekends, unless you want to.”

She says the demand for medial assistants is high right now. She’s teaching 10 students, which is down from her last graduating class.

“The problem is, we’re not seeing the students because a lot of the high schools here are nursing, nursing, nursing, and they don’t realize there’s another route,” she said.

Bruce Bailey, a talent acquisition for UnityPoint Health, says clinics and hospitals are seeing a need for more medical assistants.

“Anywhere from 100 to 150 openings for medical assistants,” he said. “We have professionals that could be retiring or could be advancing their career within healthcare. So there’s always the need for additional medical assistance within our points of care.”

Bailey said they’re on the frontline, taking medical history, answering questions, and giving injections among other things. He said programs like the one at Hawkeye Community College are extremely important.

For Jakob Winter, it won’t be long before he has a job, and he says it’s a career path that’s full of learning opportunities.

“Especially with COVID, right now, with everything changing, we’re learning things every day, and it is a lifetime of learning,” he said. “And you may learn stuff that you would never even have given a thought to, like, I didn’t even know there were, like, some of the machines we work with. I’m like, oh, that exists!”

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