How to Choose a Medical Assistant School in Bethel Alaska
Now that you have decided to become a part of the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant course in Bethel AK, it’s time to select a school that will provide the proper training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the right one? Many prospective students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues as well. You may decide to look into some online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you must carry out your due diligence and compare all important qualifications of the colleges you are reviewing. And to help you with that task, we have included a few questions that you need to ask each of the schools on your “maybe” list. But prior to starting that review, let’s briefly talk about the role of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.
The Role of Medical Assistants
The duties of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Basically their function is ensure that the Bethel AK clinics, hospitals and other medical care institutions where they work operate efficiently. Depending on the size or type of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are tasked with giving direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners but may also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. Some of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Giving general support during exams and procedures
Although Bethel AK medical assistants can carry out almost any activity they are authorized to under Alaska law, some opt to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the choices offered are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Education and Certification
In contrast to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, many Bethel AK employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we’ll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally 2 options provided for a formal education. The first and fastest path to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a diploma or a certificate. These programs generally take about a year to finish, some as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs offered at community and junior colleges together with trade and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They often have a practical component requiring an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a four year Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good idea for graduates who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in securing employment after graduation, but it may also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Many potential Bethel AK employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. Among the most popular and possibly the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to take the CMA examination, a candidate must be a graduate or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available also, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Programs
There are many accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are an excellent option for those who may not have the time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is an especially good alternative for students who continue to work full-time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an added benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Supplemental costs such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be reduced also. Just bear in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can often be carried out in regional Alaska health care facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to receiving your education might be the best option for you. With the online courses and the clinical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant in Bethel AK is provided.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Before you can start evaluating your medical assistant school alternatives, you need to decide which type of credential you want to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus near Bethel AK or online from home. Once those selections have been made, you can begin the process of comparing programs. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many students restrict their searches to the schools that are nearest to home with the most affordable tuitions. Although cost and location are significant qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you need to examine when evaluating Alaska programs. To assist you with that process, below are some questions that you need to ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your final selection.
Is the Medical Assistant College Accredited? There are many good reasons to make certain that the school you select is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted organizations for accreditation are the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). If your program is not accredited by either of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, a number of potential Bethel AK employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the School’s Passing Percentage? The majority of accredited Bethel AK area medical assistant schools design their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you need to learn which of the certifications the programs you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then obviously you will want to enroll in a program focused on that certification. Next, find out what the school’s passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. This is one of the ways to help assess the quality of a school’s program. Obviously schools with lower rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and receive entry level training in the fastest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is about 1 year. Or you can decide to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will require approximately 2 years to accomplish in a junior college or trade school. Whichever program you decide to enroll in, confirm that the Bethel AK area schools you are considering provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Offered? Many Alaska medical assistant programs sponsor internship programs with regional healthcare providers. They are a great means to obtain hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also help students establish relationships within the Bethel AK medical community. And as an additional benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Provided? Finding that first job may be a difficult task for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive a little help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are interviewing provide job placement assistance and find out what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the health care community. It also indicates that it has a wide network of contacts in the Bethel AK area to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indication of how much individual attention you will receive during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer greater access to instructors and face to face interaction. If possible, try to attend a couple of classes before enrolling in a school in the Bethel AK area to see what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant college while you continue working on a full time basis, it’s imperative that the college you choose provides classes that fit your schedule. If you need to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends in Bethel AK, make sure that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online college, but you will still have to schedule any clinical training or internships that will be required. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Pick the Right Medical Assistant School in Bethel AK
It’s imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant college that will provide the appropriate training. Whether you’re planning to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you must acquire the appropriate information on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of schools providing training these days that you can make a selection based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have covered in this article, make sure that the program you select is accredited by an acknowledged agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, don’t forget to ask the questions we have provided in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the right program you can subsequently begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Bethel AK.
Why Did You Desire to Be a CMA?When preparing to interview for a medical assistant job, it's advantageous to consider questions you might be asked. One of the questions that hiring managers frequently ask candidates is "What made you pick medical assistance as a profession?". What the interviewer is trying to uncover is not only the personal reasons you might have for becoming a Medical Assistant, but additionally what attributes and talents you possess that make you outstanding at what you do. You will likely be asked questions relating primarily to medical assisting, along with a significant number of standard interview questions, so you must ready a number of approaches about how you would like to respond to them. Considering there are several factors that go into choosing a career, you can address this primary question in a variety of ways. When formulating an answer, aim to include the reasons the work appeals to you as well as the strengths you possess that make you an exceptional medical assistant and the best choice for the position. Don't make an effort to memorize a response, but write down a few concepts and talking points that relate to your own experiences and strengths. Reviewing sample answers can help you to prepare your own concepts, and provide ideas of what to include to wow the recruiter.
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