How to Find the Right Medical Assistant Program in Iowa
Now that you have made a decision to become a part of the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant program in Iowa, it’s time to select a college that will furnish the proper training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing schools so that you subsequently enroll in the right one? Many future students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical issues as well. You may decide to look into several online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more on that later). The main point is that before you select a college you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the schools you are evaluating. And to help you with that process, we have included several questions that you need to ask each of the schools on your short list. But before we start that review, let’s talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are available.
The Job of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Basically their job is to make sure that the Iowa clinics, hospitals and other medical care facilities where they work run efficiently. Based on the type or size of facility, they can be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with giving direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners but can also be found working in an office or at the front desk. Some of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Giving basic support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants may perform almost any task they are authorized to under Iowa law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the choices available are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Training Courses and Certification
Unlike many other medical professionals, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, many Iowa employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we’ll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically two choices available for a formal education. The first and quickest route to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a diploma or a certificate. These programs usually take about a year to complete, some as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to earn an Associate Degree, which are usually 2 year programs available at community and junior colleges in addition to technical and vocational schools. They are more extensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They frequently have a clinical element involving an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are routinely a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 year Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
As earlier stated, becoming certified is not a legal mandate, but is a good idea for those who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in getting a job after graduation, but it may also enhance initial salary negotiations. Many potential Iowa employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and arguably the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to take the CMA examination, a candidate must be a graduate or will be graduating within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available as well, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Classes
There are many accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are a good option for individuals who may not have the time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is an especially good solution for students who continue to work full-time while attaining their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, a number of online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus options. Supplemental expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies may be lessened as well. Just remember that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can usually be carried out in local Iowa healthcare facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on-campus, then this method of receiving your education may be the right option for you. With the online classes and the clinical training, everything necessary to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start assessing your medical assistant school options, you must decide which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. As soon as those selections have been made, you can start the procedure of comparing programs. As we covered at the beginning of this article, many potential students restrict their searches to the colleges that are closest to home with the most affordable tuitions. Although cost and location are important qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you should look at when evaluating Iowa programs. To help you with that task, following are some questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are many good reasons to make certain that the college you choose is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you need to complete an accredited program. Two of the accepted agencies 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 organizations, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Also, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, many prospective Iowa employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program’s Passage Percentage? Most of the accredited Iowa medical assistant colleges develop their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you need to find out which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will want to select a program targeting that certification. Second, find out what the school’s passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is one of the ways to help assess the quality of a college’s program. Obviously programs with low rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Provided? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and receive entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, although the average is closer to 1 year. Or you can decide to obtain an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will take about two years to accomplish in a junior college or vocational school. Whatever program you choose to pursue, make certain that the Iowa schools you are looking at provide the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Sponsored? Numerous Iowa medical assistant programs offer internship programs with local medical providers. They are a great way to get hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also help students establish relationships within the healthcare community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Support Supplied? Finding that initial job may be a challenging task for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain a little help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are evaluating provide job placement assistance and find out what their placement rate is. If a college has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also suggests that it has a broad network of contacts in Iowa to help place students in jobs.
How Large are the Classes? Class size can be an indicator of how much individual attention you will get throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to attend a couple of classes before selecting a college in Iowa to observe what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Practical? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work full-time, it’s important that the program you choose provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends in Iowa, verify that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online school, but you will still have to schedule all clinical training or internships that may be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family issues.
Pick the Ideal Medical Assistant College in Iowa
It’s imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant college that will provide the appropriate training. Regardless if you’re planning to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must obtain the appropriate info on available programs prior to making your decision. There are such a large number of schools offering training these days that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, make sure that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But irrespective of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, make sure to ask the questions we have supplied in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the right program you can ultimately begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Iowa.