The right training program can put you on the path to becoming a medical assistant. Not all medical assisting programs are the same, which is why it is important to choose yours carefully. Here are some things to keep in mind that will guide you in your decision.
The program you choose should ideally be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Completing a program accredited by one of these two agencies will allow you to sit for a certifying exam from the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) or American Medical Technologists (AMT). Although certification is not required, it can nonetheless help you obtain a higher salary, and also helps you stand out in what is otherwise a very competitive job market.
Questions to Ask
Before enrolling, you should ask a few questions about the school you are considering, including:
- Do you assist your graduates in obtaining employment, preparing for a job interview, or creating a resume?
- What is your current job placement rate?
- What type of experience do your instructors have working as medical assistants?
- What is your student/instructor ratio?
- Where have previous students performed their practicums?
- Will I receive assistance with passing a certification exam?
- Do you offer continuing education credits to help me keep my certification active?
Visiting in Person
You should also visit your school in person to get a better idea as to the type of facilities they offer. The healthcare industry is constantly changing, as new technology is continuously being developed that affects patient care. For this reason, it is important that medical assistant training is provided using the latest equipment whenever possible. Pay particular attention to the lab to see if equipment appears old or outdated. You should also ask:
- How often equipment is replaced
- What type of maintenance is performed on equipment to ensure it works properly
- Whether there is newer, more advanced equipment currently being used in actual practice
- What type of training or experience the instructors have with using certain equipment
Your training program should ideally contain a variety of classes to help you learn both the administrative and clinical functions of a medical assistant. Some of the administrative courses you may be required to take include:
- Medical business practices
- Medical insurance and billing
- Medical law
Some medical-related courses that could be required are:
- Medical terminology
If attending an accredited program, you will also be required to complete a practicum prior to graduation. This is an unpaid internship that will allow you to put what you have learned in the classroom into practice in a clinical setting. It should be held as close to the end of your training program as possible.
Online vs. Campus-Based Learning
Some medical assistant programs are offered online, and allow you to easily fit college courses into your busy lifestyle. Even so, they do not allow you to obtain the type of “hands on” training needed to master certain skills. As such, an online training program might be ideal if you already have some medical training, but campus-based learning might be better if you are a beginner. Alternatively, some schools also offer a hybrid program that involves online administrative courses and campus-based clinical courses. One of these programs can provide you with hands on training where appropriate, yet still be flexible enough to meet your scheduling needs.
These are just a few things to think about when choosing a medical assisting program. To find out more about medical assistant training in your area, contact us.