AHEAD AZ fast-tracks medical assistant training

Dec. 19, 2022

Neighborhood Outreach Access to Health (NOAH) is a one-stop shop clinic

AHEAD-AZ fast tracks medical assistant training

PHOENIX — One of the Valley's largest community health centers has seen a surge of patients since the pandemic, and they don't have the staff to keep up. To help combat the influx, they've launched a new pilot program to help fill the gap.

Neighborhood Outreach Access to Health (NOAH) is a one-stop shop clinic. If you're sick you can see a doctor, if you need a specialist they team up for a consult on-site, and there are even dentists.

NOAH CEO Wendy Armendariz says they offer critical convenience for patients.

"They don't have the financial resources, they don't have transportation. We're here to fill that void."

They've seen a surge in patients, especially as we come through the pandemic, but they're not immune to the struggles of the health care industry.

"We knew we were going to have a primary care provider shortage, not enough physicians, not enough clinicians, but it's now also going into our front-line staff," said Armendariz.

Odalis Gonzalez works at the front desk and see's the high demand but, when it's taking four months to a year to hire help, she says it's tough to keep up.

"All the questions they have, you can't answer all the questions they need," said Gonzalez.

Thanks to AHEAD AZ, a pilot program in partnership with the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers to fast-track certification of medical assistants, she'll soon be able to step in and start conducting blood draws, administering injections, and checking vital signs.

Students get full training on-site through virtual classes and clinical hours. By tapping into the staff they already have, NOAH is able to draw on their familiarity with the facility's needs and the students are able to keep getting paid while they train. It opens up career advancement opportunities and the opportunity for more patients to get the care they need without waiting.

"My hope is just helping the community, being able to say you have that help you need," said Gonzalez.

The first eight newly minted medical assistants will graduate in December. As part of the pilot program, all the educational costs were covered by a grant. They hope to start training the next round of students in the spring.