The average growth for all occupations is 5%. Employment of medical assistants is projected to grow by 23% between 2018 and 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Oct. 21-25 is recognized across the country as Medical Assistants Recognition Week. Medical assistants (MAs) perform both administrative and clinical tasks to keep the offices of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors and optometrists running smoothly. MAs can work in clinics, urgent care clinics, blood collection centers, research facilities and insurance companies.

“There is so much that a MA can do, and your opportunities are endless. This is a great steppingstone. You see what you like and what you don't like, and then you move on with your education,” said Lisa Sailor, Anoka Technical College (ATC) MA program director.

Sailor, a resident of Zimmerman, graduated from the program herself in 1999 and has been employed at ATC since 2010. She explained many of the students who have graduated from the program have gone back to school to become physicians’ assistants, ultrasound technicians, radiology technologists, medical lab technicians, surgery technicians and registered nurses (RNs).

The ATC program, which is accredited, prepares students to assist medical providers with examinations and treatments, conduct medical histories, sterilize instruments and supplies, assist with minor surgeries, perform administrative services and administer medications.

Currently, there are around 75 students in the program who range in age from high school (PSEO) up to adults in their 50s. At the end of the program, students must complete an externship in the field. “Most of our students, if not all of our students, get a job before they even graduate,” Sailor said.

Blaine resident Jessica Dunsmore, 37, will begin her externship next fall. She was a stay-at-home mother and did part-time work for a family-owned business when she decided it was time for a change in July 2018. “My girls were growing up and I wanted to start doing something to further myself and demonstrate through actions that you are never too old to better yourself or make positive changes in your life.”

So far, Dunsmore said she has enjoyed how hands-on the classes are. “Medical assisting is such a growing field, and the demand just keeps getting stronger. The base pay in rising exponentially. You can use a MA degree as a springboard to nursing, as well, and continue your education while you are on the job at a clinic,” she explained.

After graduation, Dunsmore plans to become a certified medical assistant, or CMA, after she passes the certification exam through the American Association of Medical Assistants.

Zimmerman resident Deanna Ralph, 49, will graduate from the program in the spring. Ralph has always been intrigued by the medical field, as she has spent a lot of time in doctors’ offices and hospitals with both of her children.

“Being a parent of children with health issues and a parent of a child with special needs, the medical field really needs people with empathy,” she said. “That is something that I can offer because I understand if your child is having a bad day or if your child is autistic and they don't want to sit still, or they are afraid.”

She also wanted to prove to her daughter, a junior in high school, that it is never too late to go back to school and graduate. She described the MA program as “fantastic.”

She noted, “You get such a diverse learning, it is hands-on, so you are not just reading about something. You are getting the skills that you need to work in the field — the instructors are fantastic,” she said. “You are not practicing on oranges or gel pads; you are practicing on people ... You can take what you have learned and choose your own path.”

After graduation, Zimmerman wants to continue her education to become an RN. Her dream job, she said, would be at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare. 

For more information about medical assisting or the MA program at ATC, visit


Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or

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