WWC review of this study

Madison Area Technical College Patient Care Pathway Program: Implementation and Early Impact Report Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE)

Cook, R., Hamadyk, J., Zeidenberg, M., Rolston, H., & Gardiner, K (2018). Abt Associates.

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
    , grade

Reviewed: February 2021

No statistically significant positive
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Credit accumulation outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Hours of occupational training

Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) vs. Business as usual

18 Months

Full sample;
353 students




More Outcomes

Total number of credits earned

Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) vs. Business as usual

18 Months

Full sample;
499 students




Industry-recognized credential, certificate, or license completion outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Earned Credential - Any Source

Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) vs. Business as usual

18 Months

Full sample;
379 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • Female: 84%
    Male: 16%

  • Rural, Suburban
    • B
    • A
    • C
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    • f
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  • Race
  • Ethnicity
    Not Hispanic or Latino    


The Madison Area Technical College (MATC) operated the Patient Care Pathway (PCP) program between 2011 and 2014 in Madison Wisconsin. The Patient Care pathway program adapted and connected nine existing one-semester programs to create three patient Care Pathway academies. MATC is the primary education and training provider in the region for students interested in obtaining an associates degree, technical diploma, or certificate in the healthcare field. The PCP intervention was offered at the main campus and two regional campuses.

Study sample

A majority of the study sample members (84.3%) were female, two-thirds were non-Hispanic whites, and one-quarter were 35 or older. 97% had earned a high school degree or equivalent, 53% had prior experience with college, and about one-quarter had completed at least one year. One-third of the sample received benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program) for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). About one third reported experiencing financial hardship in the past year. About two-thirds of the sample was working at least 20 hours per week at the time of random assignment. Approximately one-quarter had annual household incomes of less than $15,000, and roughly 45 percent had annual household incomes of $30,000 or higher.

Intervention Group

The Patient Care Pathway program adapted and linked two existing healthcare bridge programs. The PCP one-semester academies provided academic and basic skills instruction to prepare students for the the college’s healthcare degree and diploma programs and advising supports to promote student success. Students could start with either Patient Care Academy 1 (PCA1) or Patient Care Academy 2 (PCA2), depending on their basic skills level, and build their skills while they acquired professional knowledge relevant for their chosen healthcare diploma or degree program. Students who completed PCA1--and scored high enough on a retest of their basic skills--could then either enroll in any of the one-year healthcare diploma programs or proceed to PCA2. Students who completed PCA2 qualified to enroll directly--without retesting--in any of the college’s two-year healthcare degree programs. Students who completed PCNA could transition to PCA1 or PCA2 or seek employment. The academies had the following components or attributes: 1) a sectoral bridge program that package occupational training and remediation of basic skills to prepare students for a specific professional field are described as sectoral bridge programs, 2) sequenced training steps that packaged particular sets of courses in each academy to provide academic preparation for and a clear pathway toward enrollment in a healthcare diploma or degree program, 3) acceleration to increase the speed of students’ entry into the college’s healthcare programs by shortening the period of remediation for applicants whose basic skills tested too low to gain admission to the Patient Care Pathway program directly, and 4) dedicated advisors to proactively and frequently reach out to their assigned students by helping them to navigate the college system and program admission process, develop an academic plan, and identify and address academic and non-academic barriers.

Comparison Group

Control group members had access to education and other services in the community that was not exclusive to the Patient Care Pathway participants. For example, control group members could access non–Patient Care Pathway courses, tutoring, disability services, general advising, counseling, and other services available at Madison College, if they were eligible. Control group members could also enroll in the college’s healthcare diploma and degree programs, but would likely follow different paths to qualify for them (the Patient Care Pathway academies versus traditional developmental education).

Support for implementation

No implementation support information provided. However, it should be noted that the author reported that fewer than half of the program recipients reported engaging in advising services at least three times - which was the recommended minimum dose. Also, the author reported that program participants encountered many barriers to pathway progression after completing the initial basic skills instruction step.


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