Ella Rainwater has a sore throat. It doesn’t
seem life threatening at the moment, but it’s painful enough that
like a second opinion. Luckily for her, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
Medical Assistant student Amber Watzka is here to help.
If Rainwater sounds suspiciously like a made-up name, it’s
because it is. The role of the sick patient, played by a first-semester NWTC student,
is all part of a final simulation designed to prep students like Watzka for the
very real five-week clinical practicum they’ll soon begin to complete
“It’s a great learning experience,”
said Tina Broderick, NWTC’s Medical Assistant program
director. “The students do get a little nervous, but this allows
them to put it all together, to get the whole picture.”
Putting It All Together
Students begin by verifying personal and insurance
information in the reception area. From there, they usher the patient into the
heart of the clinic, where they take their vitals and ask questions about their
medical history and current issues. Last, they move on to the labs, which,
depending on their patient’s symptoms, will include a test
for strep throat, a finger poke to test for blood glucose, or a urine test.
Throughout the process, instructors take notes on the student’s
performance, and each patient completes a survey on how their classmates did at
the end. Thirty-three of the program’s more than 70 students
will complete the exercise over two days. There are no grades, but it's all designed to make them more comfortable for when the real work begins.
This type of focused, experience-based learning is preparing
medical assistant students for a robust job market expected to grow by 29% over
the next eight years. In an effort to keep up with industry demand for new workers, the
college now offers the program for part-time and English
Langage Learner (ELL) students. Full-time students can complete the program in two semesters.
For Watzka, who’ll be at Aurora BayCare Medical
Center for her five-week practicum, the final run-through is a welcome final exercise
in what is already a very-hands on program.
“This is what we’ll be doing in the
clinic,” said Watzka. “It’s
nice to have a final run-through before we start.”
For more information on the Medical Assistant
program at NWTC, visit them online, or call the Health Sciences office at