How to Find the Right CMA Training Program near Hot Springs Arkansas
Now that you have decided to become a part of the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Hot Springs AR, it's time to select a school that will furnish the appropriate training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating colleges so that you ultimately enroll in the best one? Many potential students begin by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical factors also. You may choose to research some online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more on that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a college you must carry out your due diligence and compare all pertinent qualifications of the schools you are evaluating. And to assist you with that process, we have included a few 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 training and credentials that are available.
The Job of a Medical Assistant
The function of a medical assistant can be varied as well as demanding. Essentially their role is ensure that the Hot Springs AR hospitals, clinics and other healthcare institutions where they work operate successfully. Based on the type or size of facility, they may be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are responsible for providing direct support to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners but can also be found working at the front desk or in an office. A few of the many responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting 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
- Giving general support during exams and procedures
Even though medical assistants may perform almost any duty they are qualified to under Arkansas law, some opt 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
In contrast to many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to earn a college degree. However, many Hot Springs AR health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are basically two choices available for a formal education. The first and fastest route to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about 1 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 alternative is to attain an Associate Degree, which are usually 2 year programs provided at Arkansas community and junior colleges in addition to trade and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in nature than the diploma or certificate programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant courses. They usually have a clinical element 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.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, becoming certified is not a legal requirement, but is a good option for those who wish to boost their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining a position after graduation, but it may also enhance initial salary negotiations. Some possible Hot Springs AR medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not obtained accredited formal training or certification. One of the most popular and possibly the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). To qualify to apply for the CMA exam, 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 offered by the NHA.
Medical Assistant Online Schools
There are numerous accredited medical assistant programs available online also. They are an excellent alternative for individuals who may not have time to attend classes on campus but could fit them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good solution for Arkansas students who continue working full-time while earning their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, many online schools have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on campus options. Supplemental costs including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be minimized as well. Just remember that all requirements for clinical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be carried out in Hot Springs AR area healthcare facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on-campus, then this mode of getting your training may be the ideal choice for you. Between the online lessons and the clinical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is furnished.
What 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 earn, and if you want to attend classes on-campus or online from home. Once those choices have been made, you can begin the process of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, a number of potential students confine their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Hot Springs AR with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you must examine when assessing programs. To assist you with that process, below are some questions that you should ask about all of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to verify that the college you select is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the acknowledged 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 organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Also, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, a number of prospective Hot Springs AR employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited school.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? Most of the Arkansas accredited medical assistant colleges design their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you need to learn which of the certifications the colleges you are looking at are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will want to choose a program focused on that certification. Second, learn what the program's passage rate is for the certification and compare it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the ways to help evaluate the quality of a college's program. Of course schools with lower rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Programs are Available? As we previously covered, there are generally two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can select a certificate or diploma program and receive entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is closer to one year. Or you can decide to earn an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will take about 2 years to accomplish in a junior college or vocational school. Whatever program you elect to pursue, make sure that the Arkansas schools you are looking at provide the kind of program you are interested in.
Are Internships Offered? Many medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Hot Springs AR area healthcare providers. They are a great means to obtain hands-on clinical experience and training. They can also help students develop relationships within the Hot Springs health care community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews as well.
Is Job Placement Help Offered? Landing that very first job may be a difficult task for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain some assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Hot Springs AR area and ask what their placement rate is. If a school has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also suggests that it has a wide network of employers to help place students in positions.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indication of how much personal attention you will receive throughout your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to furnish increased access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to monitor a couple of classes before choosing a school to see what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue working on a full time basis, it's important that the school you choose provides classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Hot Springs AR, verify that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online college, but you will also need to schedule all internships or clinical training that may be required. Additionally, ask what the policy is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Choose the Right Hot Springs AR Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's imperative to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant program that will provide the proper training. Whether you're planning to launch a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must obtain the appropriate information on available programs prior to making your selection. There are so many schools providing training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, make sure that the program you select is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have made a decision to attend either an online or on-campus school, be sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the best program you can subsequently start a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Hot Springs AR.