New 90-Day Physician Assistant Training Program Helps Ease Healthcare Worker Shortage

By Lauren Martinez

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LA VEGAS (KVVU) – A local health care provider and Goodwill have developed a new accelerated physician assistant training program to help alleviate the severe shortage of health care workers in southern Nevada.

On Friday, March 11, Goodwill of Southern Nevada hosted a graduation ceremony for the first cohort that completed the 90-day Physician Assistant Training Program.

13 graduates received job offers for full-time paid apprenticeships with Intermountain Healthcare, a relatively new healthcare system that is looking to expand and hire more than 100 medical assistants next year.

Goodwill worked with NV Careers, NV Partners and Intermountain Health to create the program.

Goodwill provided gas cards, covered the cost of scrubs and other medical equipment. The only requirement is the 90 day commitment.

Andrew Jackson, one of 13 participants, is a disabled veteran who had struggled to find a career since 2001. He knew he wanted to be in the medical field after caring for his mother.

“I feel good. I feel like I’m going to have a bright future,” Jackson said.

He said the shortened course was tough, but he got through it with the help of classmate Toni Hill. Hill was a city bus driver during the pandemic. She loved the program so much that her daughter enrolled in the next cohort which is already full.

“I’m a bit older so I kept doubting myself like I wasn’t going to be able to complete the program, but with the help of my sister, my family, my classmates, we kept pushing and pushing each other, and pushing each other,” Hill said.

Next week, graduates will begin apprenticeships at $15 an hour at Intermountain Health. Once they have worked 1,400 hours, they will earn a Certified Physician Assistant certificate. From there, they can go as far as they want in the health sector.

Mel Bolter moved to Las Vegas because his partner is an active duty military man. She said there are many resources through Goodwill that support military spouses with career placement.

“The program was very exciting for me because I plan to continue my medical studies in the near future,” Bolter said.

She said the need for more healthcare workers is crucial, especially for the black community.

“Especially for me as a pregnant black woman, the black maternal health crisis is one of the reasons I want to get into health care and change that direction,” Bolter said.

She said that kind of investment in a program is necessary.

“The fact that we didn’t have to pay for it because there was enough need for someone else to invest in people who are going to participate in it, and they provide a career opportunity that is going to allow mobility – that’s the part that needs to be replicated everywhere,” Bolter said.

Karen Marben, mission services manager for Goodwill Southern Nevada, said Intermountain Health came to the table needing a customized, shortened program.

“You start as an apprentice, you get your certification and you are MA 1, then MA 2, MA 3 and finally you become a coach. When you go through that, you earn as much, if not more, than a registered nurse, so Intermountain really looks at that differently to meet their needs,” Marben said.

Marben said he created a compelling way to diversify the healthcare workforce.

“For me personally, I’m a first-generation student and someone gave me a chance, so I really think this program gives a chance to people in underserved neighborhoods, underserved communities that otherwise don’t not see in a career in health care,” Marben mentioned.

You must be within a certain income threshold to qualify for the accelerated program.

The next cohort starts in April and is already full.

The next cohort will start in August. For more information, contact Goodwill of Southern Nevada, and they’ll walk you through the requirements.

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