The Institute for Family Health is a Federally-Qualified Health Center with a mission to improve access to high quality, patient-centered primary health care targeted to the needs of medically underserved communities. IFH operates 27 different locations in New York State and New York City, serving over 90,000 patients a year, regardless of their ability to pay. Annie Wiseman is the Training Project Coordinator for the Institute.
Q: Why did you decide to participate in NYACH’s Medical Assistant training initiatives?
A: We were really interested in supporting our staff in their career advancement. Our staff face a number of barriers to advancement, whether it is tuition costs or single parents working full time who don’t have time to go back to school. We want to help them make the jump from one level to the next.
Q: How does career advancement relate to your mission?
A: Our mission is to provide high quality care to underserved patients. If we can promote someone from within they are already part of the culture of the organization and part of the communities they serve. There is a level of cultural competence there that we want to preserve. Many of our staff members develop strong relationships with patients over many years; to continue to see that familiar face over time is key.
Q: Were there other factors that prompted your participation with the program?
A: The other reason we participated is to develop and implement more team-based care, which involves redefining staff roles and making sure everyone knows how to be part of the care team. We want every member of the team to be invested not just in the job, but in the patients themselves. Sometimes the person at the front desk knows something about a patient that the provider doesn’t know – for example the front desk checks them in and realizes their Medicaid has expired. This needs to be communicated to the social worker who can then help them understand what happened and re-apply. This training helps us get at that.
Q: What do you think of the NYACH partnership model?
A: NYACH acts as a bridge between major players in a community, especially education and healthcare. As much as the two industries are interrelated and have mutual issues to resolve, we don’t always work together as much as we could. Everyone has to work with the resources they have and as a FQHC we don’t have extra resources or time, so having NYACH there to break down the barriers and connect the right people at the right levels is key.