The National Institute for Medical Assistant Advancement (NIMAA) is a nonprofit education institute that trains Medical Assistants to work effectively in today's high-performing primary care settings. NIMAA was created by community health centers to provide access to education and employment opportunities in the communities they serve, while addressing a critical workforce shortage. NIMAA's innovative training model combines extensive in-clinic experience with concurrent flexible online learning at an affordable cost. Students complete our 8-month post-secondary program prepared for meaningful entry-level employment in team-based primary care settings.
- Host medical assistant students for their 29-week externship, enabling students to gain hands-on experience at the clinic.
- Appoint a NIMAA Program Coordinator who will act as the designated point of contact with NIMAA regarding the program, serving as the key liaison between the NIMAA administrative team, NIMAA students placed in the externship organization, and the clinical teams supporting NIMAA students.
- Identify a NIMAA Skills Coach, who will support the students alongside the NIMAA instructional team in skills labs, where students are able to observe and practice skills in a lab setting, away from the clinic floor. Skills coaches must attend NIMAA preceptor training prior to the program start.
- Designate a qualified preceptor for each medical assistant student placed at the organization; preceptors must attend NIMAA preceptor training prior to the program start
- Host NIMAA students in the healthcare facility for a minimum of 240 hours over the course of the 29-week program, with a minimum of 60 hours per term (4 7-week terms)
- Note: All required roles (preceptor, skills coach, program coordinator) are partial FTE
- Access to experienced faculty and instructional staff, regular live and taped lectures and discussions, and online curriculum
- Preceptor Coordinator training course to prepare for the program
- Preceptor and skills coach training courses, with guidance for supporting students in-clinic and approving attendance for students
- Support for externship organization program coordinator, skills coach, and preceptors through scheduled monthly meetings and ongoing email communications
- Resources to help explain the NIMAA program to your clinical teams and community
- Management by NIMAA of all enrollment, grading, certification and student grievance issues
To be successful, externship organizations need to establish leadership and systemic support of the NIMAA program. This typically starts with an internal executive sponsor who sees the value NIMAA can bring to your health center, and who then appoints internally the appropriate people to support the program.
An agreement will need to be signed between NIMAA and the externship organization, which may require involving your organization's legal counsel. Once the agreement is finalized, the NIMAA Program Coordinator needs to effectively communicate the program goals, timeframe, and expectations of both the staff and the students. Externship organizations also need to ensure that all staff members who will support the program participate in trainings (both synchronous and asynchronous) leading up to the start of the program.
NIMAA provides significant support to help each organization prepare for success!
Externship organizations need to be committed to, and already moving towards, person-centered, team-based care or they are unlikely to be interested in this kind of training. Moreover, just training the MAs in this fashion will not work well unless the overall practice is ready for that approach. Therefore, in selecting externship organizations for NIMAA, the threshold questions are where a potential candidate clinic is on this journey. CHC’s Weitzman Institute can provide a variety of tools to support overall practice or other staff transformation/training.
Absolutely. PCMH principles, along with data measurement, are a central part of the curriculum, including the Uniform Data System, HEDIS, and other data measurement. NIMAA participants must learn how to manage data to be successful in today's healthcare environment.
We are researching and reviewing the regulations for MAs for every state in which we teach. As practice is changing rapidly, and clinics have varied practices, we focus more on team-based care needs for the patient, not just the specific job of an MA in a particular clinic or state.
Each externship organization will determine their capacity to host students, but we are hoping that each will agree to between five and 10 students. Usually these students are spread out over multiple clinics of the externship organization, with three or four at most in a single physical location.
Externship organizations need to provide a conference room or exam room for skills practice two times per term (NIMAA's 29 week program is divided into 4 terms).
NIMAA was founded by clinics; patients always come first. The patient is always the responsibility of the clinic and like any other externship, the clinic should supervise student actions and performance in their facility. NIMAA provides the instruction, and is involved throughout the entire externship; we have monthly meetings with program coordinator, preceptors, and skills coaches to provide guidance and support, as well as to discuss any potential concerns. NIMAA externship organizations have the students observe and practice what NIMAA has taught them using the EHR, protocols, and policies of the externship organization.
NIMAA has three tiers of skills acquisition and practice; these three tiers are repeated over and over throughout the 29-week program, adding new skills every week. Skills training starts with on line didactics and labs, including simulations. That is followed by practice on fellow students in skills labs at the externship under the guidance of an externship organization skills coach and with the NIMAA instructor joining via videoconference. The skills coach provides feedback to the students as they practice, and the instructor makes sure students are competent in the skill before they are cleared for applying it in clinic practice. Finally, externship organization preceptors supervise the actual application of skills in the clinical setting.
NIMAA students are bound by clear codes of conduct, as defined in our course catalog, as well as by any HR practices at the externship organization.
The liaison to NIMAA needs to be an individual who is in an upper management position, such as an operations person, nurse manager, or a provider. The person should be in daily communication with senior MAs (i.e. preceptors). It is important for the NIMAA Program Coordinator to have frequent communication with NIMAA.
We have found the best success with senior MAs. Although the student will have the opportunity to shadow many people in the clinic, the preceptor is the primary person who will monitor and facilitate student experiences. Individuals in the preceptor role should be qualified medical assistants with experience in the clinic. We have found that the most senior MAs, who are already experienced with training new hires make great NIMAA preceptors.
One major benefit of participation is that NIMAA preceptors often learn and develop new skills as they support NIMAA students.
Yes. Because a preceptor model is similar to training new staff, most clinical sites are already well versed with this process. Initially, in both instances, productivity is challenged; but, as more skills are added, the students become more helpful. Providers can give critical feedback to support the students’ experience all along the way. Many of our externship partners have found this time investment valuable, as they don't need to retrain NIMAA MAs who they may hire post-program on their internal practices.
Absolutely! We think this is an exciting option for both providers and students, and we will strongly support externship organizations that want to go this route.