How to Choose an Accredited Medical Assistant Training Program near Hot Springs Arkansas
Now that you have made a decision to enter the rewarding profession of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Hot Springs AR, it's time to choose a college that will provide the right training. But just how do you go about comparing and evaluating schools so that you ultimately pick the best one? Many prospective students start by checking out the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes 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 critical factors also. You might choose to take a look at some online medical assistant programs as an alternative also (more about that later). The main point is that before you select a college you need to finish your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the schools you are evaluating. And to help you with that task, we have furnished a few questions that you should ask each of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are offered.
The Job of Medical Assistants
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Essentially their role is ensure that the Hot Springs AR hospitals, clinics and other healthcare institutions 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 practices both. They are responsible for giving direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but may also be found working at the front desk or in an office. Some of the many duties of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Setting and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
- Supplying general support during exams and procedures
Although medical assistants may perform almost any activity they are authorized to under Arkansas law, some elect to specialize in a particular area and obtain 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 Training Courses
In contrast to most other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not mandated to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, a number of 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 generally two options provided for a formal education. The first and quickest path to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a diploma or a certificate. These programs usually take about one year to complete, a few as little as 6 to 9 months. They are designed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second alternative is to acquire an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs available at Arkansas community and junior colleges in addition to vocational and technical schools. They are more extensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant classes. They usually have a practical component requiring an internship with a local healthcare 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 similar field.
Online Medical Assistant Schools
There are many accredited medical assistant programs offered online too. They are an excellent alternative for individuals who might not have the time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if attended at home. This is a particularly good choice for Arkansas students who continue working full-time while earning their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, a number of online schools have lower tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Ancillary costs including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies can be minimized as well. Just keep in mind that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can usually be carried out in Hot Springs AR area health care facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of going to supervised classes on campus, then this approach to receiving your education may be the right choice for you. Between the online courses and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As previously mentioned, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good idea for individuals who want to advance their careers. Not only will it help in obtaining a position after graduation, but it may also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Some potential Hot Springs AR medical employers simply will not employ a medical assistant that has not received accredited formal training or certification. The most popular and arguably 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, a candidate must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Other certifications are available also, for instance the CCMA and the CMAA that we previously mentioned which are provided by the NHA.
Points to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to examining your medical assistant school options, you have to decide which type of credential you want to earn, and if you would prefer attending classes on-campus or online at home. As soon as those decisions have been made, you can begin the procedure of comparing medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, some students confine their searches to the colleges that are nearest to Hot Springs AR with the cheapest tuition. Although location and cost are significant qualifiers, they are by no means the only ones. There are a number of additional issues that you should examine when assessing schools. To help you with that process, following are a few questions that you need to ask about all of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate choice.
Is the Medical Assistant School Accredited? There are several good reasons to make sure that the school you select is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to 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 one of these agencies, you will not be eligible to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial aid, they are often not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many potential Hot Springs AR employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the School's Passing Rate? Most of the Arkansas accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you need to learn 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 obviously you will need to enroll in a program focused on 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 methods to help assess the quality of a college's program. Naturally programs with low rates are those that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two routes to obtaining medical assistant training. You can choose a diploma or certificate program and receive entry level training in the shortest amount of time, from as little as 6 months, however the average is about one year. Or you can opt to acquire an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require about two years to complete in a junior college or vocational school. Whichever program you elect to enroll in, confirm that the Arkansas schools you are reviewing provide the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Provided? A large number of medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Hot Springs AR area health care providers. They are a great method to get hands-on clinical experience and training. They may also help students establish relationships within the Hot Springs health care community. And as an additional perk, they are an advantage on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Help Supplied? Getting that very first job may be a challenging task for graduating medical assistant students unless they have a little assistance from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are evaluating offer job placement assistance in the Hot Springs AR area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a high job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also indicates that it has a broad network of employers to help place students in jobs.
How Big are the Classrooms? Class size may 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 face to face interaction. If possible, try to monitor a couple of classes before enrolling in a school to witness what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant school while you continue working on a full time basis, it's imperative that the school you enroll in provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to attend classes at night or on weekends near Hot Springs AR, make sure that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online program, but you will still have to schedule all clinical training or internships that will be required. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you might have to miss due to work, illness or family issues.
Choose the Right Hot Springs AR Medical Assistant Training
It's essential to begin your new career on the right foot by enrolling in a medical assistant program that will furnish the right training. Whether you're goal is to launch a career in medical care starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your life long career, you must acquire the right info on available programs before making your decision. There are so many schools providing training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have addressed in this article, confirm that the program you pick is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you plan on taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless of the kind of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, make sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the best program you can ultimately start a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Hot Springs AR.