Clinical associates fill critical staffing needs while building healthcare careers
During the pandemic, Chanel Bloodsaw cared for her child and family as a stay-at-home mother. As she watched doctors and nurses on the front line of a crisis, she felt a pull she’d had for years—to work in healthcare. It was a dream she’d had since college when she earned her associate degree as a pre-physician’s assistant.
“It was always a love of mine to do, but I never had the opportunity to do it,” she said. “I wanted to be a doctor but thought, that’s beyond me.”
She started to look into a path into healthcare—specifically a path to Hennepin Healthcare. She saw the community engagement that Hennepin Healthcare did as part of campus planning and felt, “They really are making change – change that matters.” Friends told her to keep her options open but she was determined to work at Hennepin Healthcare.
When she called our Talent and Acquisition team to find out how to get started, they suggested she begin working on a certificate as a medical assistant. She started classes, and then our team reached out about a new entry-level job position—Clinical Associate in the Adult Psychiatry Clinic.
The job was similar to a medical assistant but doing all the tasks that didn’t require a certification like rooming patients, taking vitals, and conducting screenings. Chanel would get experience with Epic and with patient care and start building up the clinical hours that would become her bridge into a healthcare career.
Psychiatry Clinic Program Manager Amy Mensch said the position has helped the clinic solve a staffing crisis. Because of the MA shortage, the clinic was facing the option of having providers do their own rooming or reducing the number of patients we could see. “Neither were good options,” she said, “as this would limit mental health access in our clinic at a time when the demand for such care is so great.”
She says the clinical associates have freed up the MA staff to focus on the work they’re certified to do: “We went from being short-staffed almost daily to now being well-staffed most days.”
Mohamed Hussein, another clinical associate, is working toward medical school after starting at community college and ending with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. He wanted work experience that would help him get letters of recommendation for his applications, and he wanted to be a psychiatrist because he saw people with unaddressed mental health needs in his community.
When he saw the clinical associate position in the Adult Psychiatry Clinic, he jumped to apply. He says he has access to a group of providers who support his career, let him observe case consultations, and answer his questions. He’s also had the opportunity to plug into hospital initiatives—a Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute project and an initiative to provide spiritual care to Muslim patients.
The clinical associate position is part of a new career path for entry-level employees, starting with the clinical associate position and leading to the Medical Assistant Senior role, a new role for MAs who demonstrate leadership qualities, maintain positive team relationships, possess clinical expertise, and have an aptitude for training new MAs. Practice Manager Matt Skolnick says, “With the MA Senior and Clinical Associate positions, staff could join us at the CA level, move into a Medical Assistant role following the completion of MA school, continue to grow their clinical and leadership skills, and be promoted into a MA Senior role at their clinic. We hope this provides the blueprint for staff to have a fulfilling patient-facing career with us!”
Mohamed has taken the MCAT and is submitting his applications to medical school. When he finishes, he says he wants to work at Hennepin Healthcare: “The people we serve – I feel like I’m really able to connect with them. I feel like this would be a perfect fit if all goes well.”
Chanel remembers looking at healthcare from the outside: “It just looks like a bunch of heroes—nurses, doctors. I felt like I didn’t have it.” Now she’s started her own path, “It feels like I can actually do it, and I never said that until I actually came here. Before it was a dream and now I’m really already on that path.”