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How to Choose the Best Medical Assistant Training Near Decatur Alabama

Decatur Alabama medical assistant holding patient filesNow that you have decided to join the rewarding field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near Decatur AL, it's time to select a school that will provide the right training. But just how do you approach comparing and evaluating schools so that you subsequently enroll in the best one? Most prospective students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are closest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the cheapest tuition. While cost and location are extremely important such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important issues as well. You may decide to research some online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more about that later). The bottom line is that prior to selecting a program you must finish your due diligence and compare all relevant qualifications of the schools you are reviewing. And to help you with that task, we have furnished several questions that you need to ask each of the schools on your short list. But prior to starting that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are offered.

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The Duties of a Medical Assistant

Decatur Alabama CMA greeting patient on crutches

The role of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as demanding. Primarily their function is to make sure that the Decatur AL hospitals, clinics and other healthcare centers where they work operate efficiently. Depending on the size or type 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 medical professionals but can also be found working at the front desk or in an office. Some of the potential responsibilities of a medical assistant include:

  • Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
  • Scheduling and verifying appointments
  • Taking vital signs and weighing patients
  • Taking blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
  • Preparing rooms and instruments for physicians
  • Providing general support during examinations and procedures

Even though medical assistants may perform almost any duty they are authorized to under Alabama law, some opt to specialize in a particular area and attain 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 Programs

Decatur Alabama medical assistant reading to senior patient in assisted living facilityIn contrast to many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to earn a college degree. However, many Decatur AL health care employers choose to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that are certified. There are basically 2 options provided for a formal education. The first and fastest way to becoming a medical assistant is to acquire a diploma or a certificate. These programs typically 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 obtain an Associate Degree, which are usually 2 year programs provided at community and junior colleges in addition to trade and vocational schools. They are more comprehensive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They usually have a clinical element involving an internship with a local healthcare practice. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be applied to a 4 year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.

Certification Programs for Medical Assistants

As earlier stated, certification is not a legal requirement, but is a good choice for those who wish to boost their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a job after graduation, but it can also help with preliminary salary negotiations. Many possible Decatur AL medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. 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 sit for the CMA examination, a candidate must have graduated 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

Decatur Alabama young female taking online medical assistant trainingThere are a number of accredited medical assistant programs offered online too. They are an excellent choice for those who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good alternative for students who continue to work full time while pursuing their certificate or degree. As an added benefit, some online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Ancillary costs including those for commuting, textbooks and school supplies might be reduced also. But keep in mind that any requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can usually be completed in Decatur AL area healthcare facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to getting your training might be the best choice for you. Between the online classes and the clinical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.

What to Ask Medical Assistant Programs

Before you can start reviewing your medical assistant school options, you must decide which type of credential you want to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at home. Once those choices have been made, you can start the procedure of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, a number of prospective students limit their searches to the schools that are nearest to Decatur AL with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you should explore when researching programs. To help you with that task, below are a few questions that you should ask about each of the programs you are considering before making your ultimate selection.

Is the Medical Assistant Course Accredited? There are a number of great reasons to make sure that the school you select is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you plan on becoming certified, you must complete an accredited program. Two of the accepted agencies for accreditation are the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). If your program is not accredited by either of these agencies, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Also, if you plan on applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are frequently not offered for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many potential Decatur AL employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.

What is the School's Passing Percentage? The majority of accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification exams. First, you must determine which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students for. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then of course you will need to choose 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. This is one of the methods to help evaluate the quality of a school's program. Naturally programs with lower rates are those that you will want to avoid.

Which Credentials are Provided? As we covered earlier, there are essentially two paths to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a certificate or diploma program and receive entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is about one year. Or you can choose to earn an Associate Degree and get a broader education that will require approximately 2 years to finish in a community college or trade school. Whichever program you elect to enroll in, make certain that the colleges you are looking at offer the type of program you have an interest in.

Are Internships Provided? Numerous medical assistant programs offer internship programs with Decatur AL area medical care providers. They are a great means to obtain hands-on clinical training and experience. They may also assist students establish relationships within the Decatur health care community. And as an added perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.

Is Job Placement Service Furnished? Finding that first job can be a difficult undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Decatur AL area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a higher job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has a good reputation within the health care community. It also indicates that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in positions.

How Big are the Classes? Class size might be an indicator of how much individual attention you will receive during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to provide increased access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If possible, try to sit in on a few classes before choosing a college to see what the teaching environment is like and how much attention the students get.

Is Class Scheduling Accommodating? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue working on a full time basis, it's important that the college you choose offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to go to classes at night or on weekends near Decatur AL, verify that those times are offered. You may be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online school, but you will still have to schedule all internships or practical training that may be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss due to work, illness or family responsibilities.

Become a Certified Medical Assistant in Decatur

Enroll in the Right Decatur Medical Assistant Classes

It's imperative to begin your new career on the right foot by selecting a medical assistant school that will provide the appropriate training. Regardless if you're objective is to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your life long career, you need to acquire the right info on available programs prior to making your selection. There are such a large number of schools offering training nowadays that you can make a selection based upon your individual circumstances and personal preferences. And as we have discussed in this article, make certain that the program you decide on is accredited by an acknowledged agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is particularly critical if you anticipate taking the CMA certification examination. But regardless of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, don't forget to ask the questions we have supplied so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the ideal program you can subsequently begin a fulfilling career as a medical assistant in Decatur Alabama.




 

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