November 17, 2023

UW Health medical assistant apprenticeship program marks milestone

Latest cohort graduates today

MADISON, Wis. – A novel program that trains people to be medical assistants marks five years of success and continues to grow.

Forty new registered apprentices started the program earlier this month, and 20 apprentices graduate from the program on Nov. 17.

Since the medical assistant registered apprenticeship program began in November 2018 at UW Health, it has provided education and training for more than 200 participants from the Madison area, mostly employees from UW Health, along with some employees from UnityPoint Health – Meriter and SSM Health, according to Bridgett Willey, director, Allied Health Education and Career Pathways, UW Health .

“When we launched, we were the first registered apprenticeship program of its kind in Wisconsin and only the third in the nation,” Willey said.

Medical assistants perform administrative and certain clinical duties under the direction of a physician. They often take and record vital signs and medical histories, prepare patients for examination, draw blood and administer medications as directed by physicians.

The apprenticeship program not only provides a no-cost education for the students, as part of the program they also receive full-time pay and benefits while they learn. Many participants already work for UW Health or UnityPoint Health – Meriter when they begin the program.

“We provide people a way to enter or advance in a health care profession with training that includes working on the front lines in a clinic setting,” Willey said.

Programs like this also benefit health systems by filling these roles that are in high demand and by increasing diversity in the workforce, she said.

Over the last five years, 89% of the apprentices have identified as Black, Indigenous or people of color, according to Willey.

“Our program also provides support that leads to a very low attrition rate,” she said. “The employees are staying with us in this role and viewing it as a valuable career.”

Graduates also exceed the national average when it comes to passing board exams to be certified, with almost every graduate passing on the first attempt.

Ashley Heim was a medical assistant apprentice in the very first graduating class five years ago and now is a medical assistant apprenticeship program instructor, teaching the new apprentices.

“I was working as a scheduler and wanted a role with more hands-on patient care, and the apprenticeship program provided me that,” she said. “It’s a fantastic chance to get paid while going to school and getting certified, and students get a variety of clinical experience.”

Maddy Luedtke is one of the newest apprenticeship graduates. She worked in registration at UW Health, and she also has previous training as a certified nursing assistant.

“Being an MA allows me to use my skills and background from both of those experiences to help patients,” she said. “As a single mom, this program also gives me a chance to better support my family and be the best role model for my son that I can be.”

Luedtke plans to continue her education working in the behavioral science field.

For more information, visit the UW Health Medical Assistant Apprenticeship Program website or the UW Health Careers website.

This week, Nov. 13-19, is National Apprenticeship Week. The medical assistant apprenticeship program is a registered apprenticeship through the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and was the first registered apprenticeship of its kind in the state.