No one thought Gertrude Andrew would succeed. When she learned about CITC’s Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) program, which provides training and education for high-demand, well paying jobs in the healthcare field, she immediately applied for and was accepted to HPOG’s Medical Office Assistant (MOA) training.
But her family had their doubts. “They thought I wasn’t smart enough,” Gertrude related. “And they told me I was needed at home.”
Gertrude was discouraged. When the training started, she didn’t show up for the first two days of class. But then she remembered why she came to CITC in the first place: her kids. For them, she wanted to move beyond living paycheck to paycheck and create a life that was comfortable and safe.
Four and a half months after she started her MOA training, Gertrude graduated and passed her national Certified Medical Administrative Assistant exam. With her certification, she landed her first job at the Alaska Native Medical Center.
“Here I am, coming from living in poverty to becoming employed, where I now have vision care, dental care, life insurance, and even health insurance,” Gertrude shared. “All of this without being government-provided. It makes me so proud to now see my children getting the service and things they need to live a steady life.”
Change for the better
The MOA class Gertrude completed usually has somewhere between seven to twelve students each time it’s offered; nine students graduated with Gertrude’s cohort.
When HPOG Manager Greg Hunt saw those numbers, he thought, “We can do better.”
He changed enrollment policies for the class and created a waitlist. His department also revamped the training space, adding four new stations, repositioning tables, and creating a true classroom feel. This month, HPOG kicked off its largest MOA class ever, with 20 students.
“You get a lot of bang for your buck in this class,” Greg said. “It’s a year’s worth of material shoved into four and a half months. And our instructor, Diane [Minster], does a great job of teaching our students everything they need to know — not just what they need to pass the test.”
In addition to preparing participants for the national exam to become certified medical administrative assistants, the MOA class offers Microsoft Word and Excel certifications, equipping students with additional skills that make them desirable prospective employees. For graduates of the class, CITC partners with the Southcentral Area Health Education Center (SCAHEC) for job shadowing.
“SCAHEC hooks our students up with a mentor already in the healthcare industry who can bridge the gap between training and getting a job,” Greg explained. “It really allows our students to get a feel for what the work is like.”
Streamlining for success
HPOG has made other changes to better accommodate and support CITC participants.
One of the first things Greg realized when he joined CITC in January was that there wasn’t enough staff to provide service for participants. There was also constant traffic in and out of the office, with students stopping by to turn in forms or ask questions.
“We streamlined things and created a better model to serve participants,” Greg said. “Now we’re more of a one-stop shop.”
Two HPOG program specialists now work with participants from the moment they express interest in the program, through the application process, to graduation and beyond, even offering support after graduates have found a job.
The department also revamped its intake process to make sure no one falls through the cracks. Greg’s team rearranged the office to support their new system, along with adding a computer work station for non-Native participants who don’t have access to the Alaska’s People Career Development Center.
“These improvements have been reflected in our enrollment numbers, which have really jumped in the last two months,” Greg reported.
They’re reflected in the success of MOA graduates, too. All nine students who graduated with Gertrude’s cohort in February passed their national certification exams. Six went on for their Regional Alcohol & Drug Abuse Counselor Training; the remaining three secured employment.
One of those three was a woman who happened to go to her dentist while she was taking the class. “She found she was looking at everything with a critical eye, thanks to the training she’d gotten through HPOG,” Greg related. “She started talking to the dentist’s administrative person, asking why they did things a certain way. Before she knew it, she was talking to her dentist — and the dental office hired her when she graduated.”
“For us, that’s what it’s about: The resiliency component, and flipping that frame of mind so participants can say, ‘Yes, I can succeed, be a winner, and do what I want to do.’”
– Greg Hunt
That’s the other thing CITC’s MOA class does: It gives students a newfound confidence to ask questions, express themselves, and achieve success. Students, like Gertrude.
“She’s a completely different person,” Greg said. Gertrude has been working at the Alaska Native Medical Center since February. “She came in to show us the piece of paper that listed her benefits — she was so excited.”
“I was afraid and nervous, but I decided to stick it out,” Gertrude reflected of her MOA class. “Now I have a great paying job, no more relying on the government, and my kids will have great life.”
“For us, that’s what it’s about,” Greg added. “The resiliency component, and flipping that frame of mind so participants can say, ‘Yes, I can succeed, be a winner, and do what I want to do.’”
Interested in a career in the health professionals field? You can find out more about the HPOG program and its classes on the program page. For more information, contact (907) 793-3322.