How to Select the Right CMA Training Program near Dothan Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to become a part of the rewarding profession of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Dothan AL, it's time to select a school that will provide the right training. But just how do you approach evaluating and comparing schools so that you subsequently enroll in the ideal one? Many prospective students begin by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are critical issues as well. You may decide to take a look at a few online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a program you need to finish your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the colleges you are assessing. And to assist you with that process, we have included several questions that you need to ask each of the colleges on your short list. But before we start that review, let's briefly talk about the responsibilities of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are available.
The Role of Medical Assistants
The role of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Essentially their duty is to make sure that the Dothan AL clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities where they work run efficiently. Depending on the type or size of facility, they may be more of an administrative assistant, a clinical assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are tasked with providing direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but can also be found performing duties in an office or at the front desk. A few of the potential responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
- Providing general support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants can perform almost any duty they are qualified to under Alabama law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and attain 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
In contrast to many other healthcare professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Dothan AL health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are essentially 2 choices available for a formal education. The first and quickest way to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a diploma or a certificate. These programs generally take about 1 year to complete, a few as little as six to nine months. They are designed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are typically 2 year programs available at Alabama junior and community colleges as well as vocational and technical schools. They are more extensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They often have a clinical element requiring 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.
Online Medical Assistant Courses
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs offered online as well. They are a good option for individuals who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good alternative for Alabama students who continue to work full time while earning their certificate or degree. As an extra benefit, many online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus alternatives. Supplemental costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be reduced also. Just bear in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can often be carried out in Dothan AL area health care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of attending supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to receiving your education may be the ideal option for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Programs for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent option for graduates who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining a position after graduation, but it might also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Some possible Dothan AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not obtained certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and perhaps the most highly regarded certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) provided by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to take the CMA exam, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are available as well, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Programs
Before you can start examining your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to decide which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at home. As soon as those choices have been made, you can begin the process of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, many potential students limit their searches to the schools that are closest to Dothan AL with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you need to examine when evaluating programs. To assist you with that task, below are some questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your final choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are several good reasons to ensure that the program you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you must complete an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged 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 eligible to take the CMA exam. Also, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. And last, as mentioned previously, many prospective Dothan AL employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.
What is the School's Passage Rate? Most of the Alabama accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you must learn which of the certifications the schools you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will want to choose a program concentrating on that certification. Next, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is one of the means to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Obviously programs with low rates are those that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are essentially two paths to obtaining medical assistant training. You can select a diploma or certificate program and receive 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 elect to obtain an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require approximately 2 years to finish in a junior college or vocational school. Whatever program you choose to enroll in, make certain that the Alabama colleges you are looking at offer the type of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Provided? Many medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Dothan AL area medical care providers. They are an excellent means to obtain hands-on clinical experience and training. They can also assist students establish relationships within the Dothan medical community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Help Supplied? Finding that initial job can be a difficult task for graduating medical assistant students unless they have a little help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the Dothan AL area and find out what their placement rate is. If a program has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the medical community. It also signifies that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size might be an indicator of how much personal attention you will get throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to offer greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to monitor a few classes before enrolling in a college to see what the teaching atmosphere is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you anticipate attending a medical assistant school while you continue to work full time, it's essential that the program you select provides classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Dothan AL, make certain that those times are offered. You might be able to fit your classes in easier with an online program, but you will also have to schedule all clinical training or internships that might be required. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Dothan AL Medical Assistant Program
It's important to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant program that will provide the proper training. Regardless if you're planning to begin a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must get the right information on available programs before making your selection. There are so many schools offering training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have addressed in this article, confirm that the program you pick is accredited by an acknowledged organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you intend on taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless of the type of credential that you intend to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an on-campus or online school, don't forget to ask the questions we have provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the right program you can ultimately begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Dothan AL.