Training and Advocating for New York’s Next Generation of Medical Assistants
December 8, 2023
High-quality primary care is best delivered by a diverse team of professionals who work together and combine skills to address the needs of patients and communities.
Members of this team include medical assistants (MAs), who are unlicensed personnel who perform various administrative and limited clinical tasks under the supervision of a physician. In New York State, the MA workforce of nearly 36,000 is expected to grow by 27% by 2030. With the fast growth of MAs and the shift to team-based care, MAs can take on enhanced roles in areas such as care coordination, patient navigation and education, and disease management. Because MAs are often members of the communities they serve, they are well-positioned to build relationships with patients—particularly patients of color and those from other historically marginalized groups—and earn their trust. But varying state regulations pose barriers to MAs taking on even greater responsibilities. More than 40 states formally define the scope of practice for medical assistants or empower clinicians to delegate tasks to unlicensed MAs, but New York lacks clear guidance. Health centers also struggle to use MAs because their education, training, skills, and experience vary considerably. In 2023, NYHealth awarded the Community Health Care Association of New York State (CHCANYS) a grant to expand the MA workforce in community health center settings through a statewide apprenticeship program and policy advocacy to expand the scope of practice for MAs in New York State.
Under this grant, CHCANYS will adopt a workforce development and policy strategy focused on MA advancement on the care team. It will launch a statewide MA apprenticeship program at 10 community health centers. This program will pair an MA apprentice with an experienced MA coach and a practice administrator champion to offer supervised practice and instructions. This curriculum has been recognized by the New York State Departments of Labor and Education and aligns with national accreditation competencies. CHCANYS will also lead skill-based trainings; provide technical assistance in hosting apprentices; offer peer-learning sessions; cover fees for accreditation exams; and perform site visits to help integrate MAs into care teams at participating health centers. Additionally, it will launch a statewide advocacy campaign to encourage stakeholders to define and expand the scope of practice for MAs.