Medical Assistant Students Learn How to Assist those with Special Needs

As a medical assistant, it is important to understand the needs of all patients in order to provide the best possible care. Globe University-Eau Claire’s Medical Assistant Program Chair Gretchen Johnson believes in this whole heartedly. As part of the program, Gretchen encourages the students to get out in the community and take advantage of every opportunity to learn.

Medical assistant students got a tour of REACH and learned how to better assist and interact with individuals with special needs. From Left: Mackenzie Olson, Jamie Allen, Rachel Bos and Greta Thome.

One example of this was a recent visit to REACH in Eau Claire where the medical assistant students spent time learning about the organization and participated in on-site activities. REACH Inc., a nonprofit organization, provides “innovative opportunities for people, in order to promote self-determination and full participation in the community regardless of their ability.”

Guided by Program Coordinator Anne Woolever, the students learned firsthand the skills needed to assist those with special needs. The tour was a great opportunity for students to ask questions and better prepare them as medical assistants for very specific types of patients they may work with in the future.

The visit started with a tour of the facility and an explanation of the types of services offered to those in the adult pre-vocational and life skills program at REACH. Anne explained to the students the importance of varying communication styles and some of the challenges that those with disabilities face. In addition, Anne showed the students how to guide patients who are blind and how to be conscious of their safety. Anne’s staff took the time to demonstrate some of the more technical skills such as wheelchair transfers and Hoyer lifts.


After the completion of the tour, the students gained hands on experience by assisting residents with projects as part of REACH’s day services program. The caring nature of the medical assistant students really came through during the visit as they worked with the participants.

Medical assistant student Rachel Bos felt right at home with helping, as Rachel currently works with adults with disabilities. She said, “This is great for the medical assistant students that do not have experience interacting with people with disabilities. It will benefit them in the future as medical assistants.”

The students took advantage of the time with REACH asking questions about specific situations and how to handle them. Medical Assistant Program Chair Gretchen Johnson inquired with Anne about employment and volunteer opportunities that are available. Anne explained that REACH has opportunities for employment, internships, and volunteers (for both individuals and businesses), and they have worked closely with students in other medical-related programs such as vocational and occupational therapy.

Rachel was excited to learn that REACH is currently looking for help, as she has experience in this field. It turned out to be a great networking opportunity for Rachel and the other students.

At the end of the visit, Anne and her staff welcomed the students to come back anytime and volunteer their talents. Those that are interested in volunteering or learning more about employment with REACH can contact the Eau Claire location at (715)833-7755. Check out REACH online at