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New Workforce programs address state-wide shortages in healthcare industry

October 28, 2021

The Community College of Rhode Island is addressing the state’s staffing crisis among behavioral and clinical health agencies with two free training courses designed to provide the struggling healthcare workforce with skilled, qualified workers.

CCRI’s Division of Workforce Partnership’s Medical Assistant and Case Manager programs, both of which launch on November 8, offer students the opportunity to learn real-world skills in a clinical setting and important job placement assistance once they complete their certification.

Case Manager training begins with an initial two-week “boot camp” followed by a 30-week paid externship (20–29 hours per week) with industry partner, Community Care Alliance. By the end of the seven-month program, graduates will have earned 20 college credits, a guaranteed full-time position in the field, and a subsequent pay raise.

The Medical Assistant program includes a 12-week training followed by a four-week externship with Integrated Healthcare Partners. Compared to other local Medical Assistant courses that cost thousands of dollars and run for approximately 10 months, CCRI’s training is free and accelerated to a 16-week window to ensure students are learning the skills relevant for today’s healthcare environment.

“We are excited to launch these timely trainings that assist in improving the clinical and behavioral health workforce shortages in Rhode Island,” said Tekla Moquin, Executive Director of Workforce Partnerships at CCRI. “Healthcare programming continues to be an area of focus and growth at CCRI, and with the new challenges presented by COVID-19, we are meeting them side-by-side with our employer partners.”

Both courses address a growing need in the healthcare industry; according to workers in the community behavioral-health field, unfilled vacancies are placing additional stress on frontline workers, and with less funding from state and federal agencies amidst the pandemic, employers cannot offer wages and incentives comparable to those at hospitals and larger healthcare entities. The trickle-down effect has made it increasingly difficult for behavioral health agencies to recruit skilled workers. 

According to the 2021 External Healthcare Labor Market Analysis by Mercer, a nationwide asset management firm, the healthcare labor market is expected to face shortages over the next five to 10 years at county, state, and regional levels, which could boost the demand for jobs in several fields, specifically mental health professionals, where Mercer predicts there will be a 10 percent increase in demand for workers five years from now.

CCRI’s newest Workforce Programs in Healthcare are designed to grow the supply chain to industry partners, producing skilled workers ready to fill high-demand positions within Rhode Island.

Case Manager training is for those who want to work with adult clients suffering from mental illness and other life challenges to ensure proper care options to meet their mental, physical, and emotional needs. The training includes the aforementioned externship with Community Care Alliance in Woonsocket, a non-profit that covers a wide range of services from counseling, treatment, and residential programs for those impacted by mental illness and addiction to employment, financial literacy, and vocational training to improve self-efficiency. Those who graduate the program will move on to a full-time position as a Case Manager with Community Care Alliance, one of the many statewide agencies suffering from staffing shortages.

“The case management training and externship project with CCRI offers an innovative, non-traditional workforce development approach that is an important step in addressing the healthcare staffing crisis community-based organizations are dealing with at present,” Community Care Alliance President and CEO Benedict Lessing. “Moreover, it offers a pathway to advanced training, education, and employment opportunities for applicants that want to enter the behavioral health and human services field. CCRI's marketing, training, and educational capacity adds value to non-profit organizations whose mission is to address Rhode Island's most complex human needs.”

With Medical Assistant training, students participate in an externship with Integrated Healthcare Partners – which includes organizations such as East Bay Community Action Program, Wood River Health Services, Comprehensive Community Action Program, and WellOne Primary Medical and Dental Care – and learn a number of important, transferrable skills, including patient triage, patient education, specimen collection, injections, vital signs, ECGs, and social determinants of health. That overlap of skills makes it possible to transition to different jobs within the industry through continued education and credentialing; graduates can enter the field as medical assistants, then return to college to segue into new opportunities, anything from a phlebotomy technician to a registered nurse.

“IHP is pleased to partner with CCRI to provide needed trainings for individuals who are focused on advancing the health outcomes of the 30,000 lives we serve,” said Integrated Healthcare Partners President and CEO Rebecca Plonsky.

“Medical Assistants are an integral part of care delivery team to provide important screenings for behavioral health and social determinates of health and to connect individuals to services and supports. We look forward to onboarding new graduates from the program to advance our mission as an Accountable Entity.”

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