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How ACC Apprenticeships Help Students Achieve Their Goals

ACC Medical Assistant Apprenticeship students 2021 (Burch on left)
By Harleigh Burch, ACC MA Apprenticeship Graduate

"I never thought I could go to school and work at the same time and not have to worry about taking out a loan or struggle to pay my tuition.”

ACC Medical Assistant Apprentice - Harleigh BurchIn November of 2020 I was nannying for a small family, full-time, commuting thirty-minutes a day and was finding myself wanting more than what I had. Around that time I was spending a lot of time researching careers in the healthcare field and was introduced to a few different Medical Assistant programs in Colorado. Many of them were far out of my budget and were almost two years long. I struggled to commit to such a big decision like that because I had already spent a year and a half at a four-year university and had taken out far too many loans to fund my education. After a few weeks of searching for the right fit for me, a friend’s mom who works for Centura Health had reached out to me and suggested the Medical Assistant Apprenticeship program that is also partnered with Arapahoe Community College. I quickly sent in an application and got a call a few weeks later to set up an interview. In January of 2021 I received an email stating that I had been accepted into the program and had the choice between two different clinics to work at near my house! I was so excited and ready to take the next step into my career path.

I started classes and working at the clinic around the end of January and I immediately knew I was going to love it. I started at a Primary Care office and was lucky enough to have another student with me so we were able to learn and grow together in an unfamiliar place. I am so thankful I was able to experience Primary Care because I truly saw everything and learned how to provide the best patient care to anyone who walked into our clinic. Every single medical assistant, doctor, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, registered nurse, patient service representative and the many other people we met along the way were so welcoming and patient with how we were learning. I worked four days a week at the clinic and on Friday’s I was at school. My favorite part about the program was how no one made it work feel like work. I was excited to come into the office everyday and meet new patients, interact with new providers and learn something new. It felt like everyday I was learning a new skill or at the very least perfecting another one.

Arapahoe Community College was such an amazing support system throughout the entire program. I had many people I knew I could reach out to when I had questions or just wanted to talk to someone. They guided me in the right direction as far as who to reach out to for financial help while I was in the program. I was put in contact with Douglas County Workforce and was so blessed with their amazing contributions to my tuition, school supplies and even gas contributions to get to and from work. I never felt left behind or confused as to what my next steps were going through school. ACC gave me an opportunity to further my education, close to home and with a great team of people supporting me through my journey.

The program only runs for six months and during that time I was working and taking classes simultaneously. I never felt like I was drowning in homework or like I was bringing work home with me. After the six months was over and I passed my certifying exam, I had the option to stay at the clinic I was trained at or search for other opportunities within Centura; because Centura Health paid for half of my tuition, I signed a thirteen month contract to work for them. I chose a Women’s Health office near my home and I have been loving it! After my contract ends, I will have the option to stay with the company or move on with my career but I truly love Centura and can’t picture myself anywhere else. They even offer benefits after you finish school and tuition reimbursement if you choose to further your education while working for them. ACC’s partnership with Centura is the opportunity of a lifetime.

ACC Medical Assistant Apprentice Harleigh Burch with her familyIf I could tell every single person looking to start a career in the healthcare field, about this program, I would. I spent six, very fast months, completing the entire program at an amazing clinic with a great preceptor guiding me through. I was even able to shadow at other clinics like Women’s Health, which is where I eventually accepted a position as an MA II. The greatest advice I have ever heard was from one of my mentors in the program. She had us sign our names on a piece of paper during our very first class with her. After signing our names she told us to put a comma after our signature and write out “CCMA” behind it. She said that if we ever feel discouraged, frustrated, confused, upset or even grateful that we should look at our signature because in those short six months we would be working towards that one goal. The final goal was to pass the certifying exam and be able to sign our names exactly like we did the very first day we started. My advice to anyone that wants to apply to this program is to believe in yourself, ask a lot of questions and put yourself out there. I was able to see a lot more than I ever expected to see, all because I asked.

When I submitted my application to Centura Health for the program I was expecting to spend a decent amount of money or even take out a loan. When I received the estimated cost breakdown from ACC I was shocked and very grateful. Centura Health paid for half of my tuition and they were paying me to work for them. There aren’t many companies that will offer that amazing benefit. The other half of my tuition was paid for by Douglas County Workforce and they even contributed to my supplies for school. The only cost I incurred during the entire program was for my scrubs. I chose to go the cheaper route and only buy two pairs from Walmart and eventually I invested in a couple of other pairs as I started working more. I know that Workforce also offers to help with the cost of scrubs but I felt like they were doing too much! I was so grateful. I never thought I could go to school and work at the same time and not have to worry about taking out a loan or struggle to pay my tuition.

As I continue my thirteen months with Centura Health, I plan on taking the fall semester off to focus on my work goals. In the spring of 2022 I am starting the prerequisites I need to apply to ACC’s Nursing program and eventually planning on earning my Bachelor’s of Nursing. I have been given the most amazing opportunity to start a career I have been searching for since I left college a few years ago. I am so thankful for everyone at ACC, Centura Health and Douglas County Workforce for all of their hard work, patience and full hearts. I know I will continue to tell everyone I know about this program and be so proud that I can represent how successful it has been.