How to Pick a Medical Assistant School in Kentucky
Now that you have decided to join the rewarding field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant program in Kentucky, it’s time to choose a college that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing schools so that you subsequently pick the best one? Most potential students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the lowest tuition. While location and cost are extremely important such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues as well. You might want to take a look at several online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you need to complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the schools you are assessing. And to help you with that task, we have furnished several questions that you need to ask all of the schools on your “maybe” list. But before we start that review, let’s briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the type of credentials and training that are offered.
The Job of Medical Assistants
The role of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Primarily their duty is to make sure that the Kentucky clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities where they work operate 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 responsible for providing direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but can also be found working at the front desk or in an office. Some of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Supplying basic support during examinations and procedures
While medical assistants may perform almost any duty they are authorized to under Kentucky law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and earn certification. Two of the options offered are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) provided by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Courses and Certification
Unlike most other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Kentucky employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (we’ll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially 2 options offered for a formal education. The first and shortest path to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about 1 year to complete, some as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to attain an Associate Degree, which are normally two year programs provided at junior and community colleges as well as vocational and technical schools. They are more expansive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They frequently have a practical element involving an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are commonly 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, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good choice for graduates who wish to advance their careers. Not only will it help in attaining a position after graduation, but it can also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Many possible Kentucky employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. The most popular and possibly the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to sit for the CMA examination, an applicant must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available also, including the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs offered online as well. They are an excellent alternative for individuals who may not have the time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good alternative for students who continue working full time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, some online programs have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus alternatives. Supplemental costs including those for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be minimized as well. Just bear in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can usually be carried out in local Kentucky medical facilities. If you can earn a degree without the rigid structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this approach to getting your education may be the best option for you. Between the online classes and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Before you can start examining your medical assistant program options, you have to determine which type of credential you want to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online at home. Once those selections have been made, you can begin the process of comparing colleges. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, a number of potential students restrict their searches to the schools that are closest to home with the most affordable tuitions. Although location and cost are significant qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional issues that you need to explore when researching Kentucky programs. To help you with that process, below are some questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are thinking about before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are several good reasons to make certain that the college you enroll in is accredited. First, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 one of these agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you intend on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Kentucky employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the School’s Passing Percentage? Most of the accredited Kentucky medical assistant colleges design their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. To start with, you need to determine which of the certifications the programs you are reviewing are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will need to enroll in a program focused on that certification. Second, ask what the school’s passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a school’s program. Naturally schools with low rates are ones that you will prefer to avoid.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to acquiring medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is closer to one year. Or you can choose to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take approximately two years to finish in a junior college or trade school. Whatever program you elect to pursue, make certain that the Kentucky schools you are looking at offer the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? A large number of Kentucky medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with local medical providers. They are an excellent means to receive hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also help students establish relationships within the healthcare community. And as an added benefit, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Assistance Furnished? Getting that very first job can be a daunting undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they receive a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the colleges you are interviewing offer job placement assistance and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a high job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the medical community. It also indicates that it has a broad network of contacts in Kentucky to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size may be an indication of how much individual instruction you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to offer increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to monitor a few classes before enrolling in a school in Kentucky to see what the teaching atmosphere is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work on a full time basis, it’s important that the program you select offers classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to attend classes at night or on weekends in Kentucky, confirm that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will still have to schedule any internships or clinical training that might be required. Additionally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Ideal Medical Assistant Training in Kentucky
It’s important to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant school that will furnish the appropriate training. Regardless if you’re goal is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to get the right information on available programs prior to making your decision. There are so many colleges offering training nowadays that you can make a decision based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, verify that the program you select is accredited by a recognized agency, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the type of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an online or on-campus school, don’t forget to ask the questions we have provided so you can evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the ideal program you can ultimately begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Kentucky.