How to Pick a Medical Assistant Course in Tennessee
Once you have made a decision to enter the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant course in Tennessee, it’s time to choose a school that will furnish the right training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? Many prospective students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues as well. You may want to look into a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more about that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a program you need to carry out your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the schools you are assessing. And to help you with that process, we have provided several questions that you need to ask all of the colleges 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 kind of credentials and training that are offered.
The Function of Medical Assistants
The function of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Essentially their job is to make sure that the Tennessee hospitals, clinics and other medical care institutions where they work run successfully. Depending on the size or type of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller practices both. They are responsible for providing direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other medical professionals but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. A few of the potential responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Completing insurance forms and filing claims
- Setting and confirming appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Providing general support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants can perform almost any duty they are qualified to under Tennessee law, some elect to specialize in a particular 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 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 Tennessee employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are generally two choices available for a formal education. The first and fastest way to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a certificate or diploma. These programs normally take about a year to complete, some as little as six to nine months. They are created to teach the fundamentals of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to attain an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs provided at junior and community colleges as well as technical and vocational schools. They are more extensive 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 component involving an internship with a local medical practice. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a 4 year Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal requirement, but is an excellent choice for individuals who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in getting a position after graduation, but it may also help with initial salary negotiations. Some possible Tennessee employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. One of the most popular and possibly the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to take the CMA examination, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are offered as well, such as the CMAA and the CCMA that we previously mentioned which are offered by the NHA.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online as well. They are an excellent option for students who may not have the time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good alternative for students who continue working full time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, many online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus alternatives. Supplemental expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies can be reduced as well. Just remember that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can often be completed in area Tennessee healthcare facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to getting your training might be the right choice for you. Between the online courses and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to work as a medical assistant is provided.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school options, you must determine which type of credential you want to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online at home. Once those decisions have been made, you can start the process of comparing colleges. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many students limit their searches to the colleges that are nearest to home with the cheapest tuitions. Although location and cost are significant qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional considerations that you need to look at when evaluating Tennessee schools. To assist you with that task, below are a few questions that you need to ask about all of the schools you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to verify that the college you select is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you intend to become certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted organizations for accreditation are the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). If your school is not accredited by one of these agencies, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Tennessee employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program’s Passage Rate? The majority of accredited Tennessee medical assistant schools create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you need to determine which of the certifications the programs you are looking at are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then naturally you will want to select a program targeting that certification. Next, ask what the program’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 college’s program. Naturally schools with low rates are ones that you will want to eliminate.
Which Programs are Provided? As we previously covered, there are basically two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can choose a certificate or diploma program and obtain entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, although the average is about one year. Or you can opt to acquire an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take approximately 2 years to accomplish in a community college or vocational school. Whichever program you decide to pursue, verify that the Tennessee schools you are considering offer the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Offered? Many Tennessee medical assistant colleges offer internship programs with local medical care providers. They are a great way to get hands-on practical training and experience. They can also help students build relationships within the healthcare community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Service Provided? Landing that initial job can be a daunting task for medical assistant school graduates unless they have a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are interviewing offer job placement assistance and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also signifies that it has a broad network of contacts in Tennessee to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size may be an indication of how much personal attention you will receive throughout your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to attend a few classes before enrolling in a school in Tennessee to witness what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work full-time, it’s imperative that the school you select provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you have to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends in Tennessee, verify that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will also need to schedule any clinical training or internships that may be required. Also, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Pick the Ideal Medical Assistant College in Tennessee
It’s important to begin your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant program that will furnish the right training. Regardless if you’re objective is to launch a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to obtain the appropriate info on available programs before making your decision. There are so many schools providing training these days that you can make a decision based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, verify that the program you select is accredited by an acknowledged organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you anticipate taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless of the kind of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the best program you can subsequently begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Tennessee.