Madison Area Technical College Patient Care Pathway Program: Implementation and Early Impact Report

Publication Date: October 23, 2018
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  • Published: 2018


Research Questions

  1. What intervention was actually implemented? Did it deviate from plans or expectations?
  2. What were students’ participation patterns and experiences with program services?
  3. What were the effects of the Patient Care Pathway program on the number of college credits earned and other educational outcomes?

This report documents the implementation and early impacts of the Patient Care Pathway program, operated by Madison Area Technical College (Madison College) in Madison, Wisconsin. The program aimed to help low-skilled adults remediate their basic skills so that they could quickly access occupational training in the growing healthcare sector. The Patient Care Pathway program is one of nine career pathways programs being evaluated under the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) study sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families.

The Patient Care Pathway program adapted and linked existing programs at Madison College to create one-semester academies offering low-skilled students an accelerated pathway into their chosen one-year healthcare diploma or two-year healthcare degree program. The healthcare academies packaged contextualized and accelerated basic skills instruction with credit-bearing courses. The program also offered proactive advising designed to help students navigate the college setting and persist toward their desired educational program.

Using a rigorous research design, the study found that the Patient Care Pathway program did not increase number of college credits earned. The program increased the likelihood of enrollment in occupational training, but did not increase hours of occupational training received or the attainment of education credentials within an 18-month follow-up period. Future reports will examine educational credential attainment as well as employment and earnings outcomes.


The federal government projects that over the next decade, the fastest-growing occupations will be in healthcare. Almost all jobs in healthcare require some level of postsecondary education or training. But, many low-skilled adults face considerable barriers to completing even short-term training for entry-level jobs. Many are “nontraditional” students—that is, older, often parents, and with few economic resources.

Career pathways programs are designed to address these issues by providing well-articulated training and employment steps targeted to locally in-demand jobs, combined with a range of supports. Policymakers and practitioners have shown great interest in the career pathways approach. But, to date, limited rigorous research is available on its effects on participants’ educational and economic outcomes. To assess the effectiveness of a career pathways program such as the Patient Care Pathway program, the PACE evaluation uses an experimental design—that is, randomly assigning study participants to a “treatment” group who can access the program and a “control” group who cannot, then comparing their outcomes.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • Patient Care Pathway program staff implemented program components mostly as planned, including basic skills and occupational training and instructional approaches, but the advising component was less intensive than planned. While the program encouraged, but did not mandate, three advising sessions during the semester, fewer than half of students reported receiving academic advising three or more times.
  • Healthcare program admission policies external to the program presented barriers for admission to and timely completion of healthcare diploma and degree programs for Patient Care Pathway students.
  • More than 90 percent of treatment group members participated in at least one Patient Care Pathway academy and completion rates were high. Although less than a quarter of treatment group members earned a credential within the 18-month follow-up period, more than 70 percent were still enrolled in courses at Madison College.
  • The Patient Care Pathway program did not increase the number of college credits earned (the confirmatory outcome for this report), total hours of occupational training, or credential receipt during the 18-month follow-up period. The treatment group was seven percentage points more likely than control group members to be enrolled in occupational training.


The evaluation’s implementation study examined the design and operation of the program and the treatment group’s participation patterns. Its impact study estimated the program’s effects on education and training, and employment outcomes.

Between December 2011 and January 2014, the evaluation randomly assigned 500 program applicants to either the treatment or the control group. The impact study used data from a follow-up survey at 18 months after random assignment and administrative records from Madison College. The evaluation also included site visits to document program implementation and operations. Prior to estimating Patient Care Pathway program impacts, the research team published an analysis plan specifying key hypotheses and outcome measures.


Cook, R., Hamadyk, J., Zeidenberg, M., Rolston, H., and K. Gardiner. (2018). Madison Area Technical College Patient Care Pathway: Implementation and Early Impact Report, OPRE Report # 2018-48, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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