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How to Pick the Best Medical Assistant Course Near Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage Alaska medical assistant carrying patient recordsOnce you have decided to enter the gratifying field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Anchorage AK, it's time to choose a school that will provide the proper training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating schools so that you subsequently enroll in the right one? Many potential students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their residences and then gravitate toward those that have the lowest tuition. While cost and location are very important, such things as accreditation, job assistance and internship programs are important issues also. You may decide to look into several online medical assistant programs as an option also (more on that later). The bottom line is that before you select a college you must complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the schools you are assessing. And to help you with that task, we have included some questions that you need to ask each of the schools on your "maybe" list. But prior to starting that review, let's briefly talk about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are offered.

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The Duties of a Medical Assistant

Anchorage Alaska CMA greeting man on crutches

The function of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Primarily their role is ensure that the Anchorage AK clinics, hospitals and other healthcare facilities where they work operate efficiently. Based 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 tasked with providing direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other health professionals but can also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. A few of the many functions of a medical assistant include:

  • Completing insurance forms and submitting claims
  • Setting and confirming appointments
  • Weighing and taking patients vital signs
  • Collecting blood and other fluid and tissue specimens
  • Preparing instruments and rooms for physicians
  • Providing basic support during exams and procedures

Even though medical assistants may perform almost any task they are authorized to under Alaska law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and earn certification. Two of the options offered are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) made available by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).

Medical Assistant Training Courses

Anchorage Alaska CMA working with senior man in assisted living facilityIn contrast to most other medical professionals, medical assistants are not mandated to become certified, licensed, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Anchorage AK health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are essentially two options available for a formal education. The first and shortest way to becoming a medical assistant is to earn a certificate or diploma. These programs typically take about one year to finish, 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 earn an Associate Degree, which are usually two year programs offered at community and junior 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 frequently have a practical component requiring an internship with a local healthcare facility. 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 related field.

Certification Options for Medical Assistants

As stated previously, certification is not a legal mandate, but is a good idea for graduates who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in obtaining a job after graduation, but it may also enhance preliminary salary negotiations. Many potential Anchorage AK medical employers simply will not hire a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. Among 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 sit for the CMA examination, a candidate must be a graduate or will graduate within thirty days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are available also, such as the CCMA and the CMAA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.

Medical Assistant Online Classes

Anchorage Alaska young female attending online medical assistant coursesThere are many accredited medical assistant programs offered online also. They are an excellent option for those who might not have time to go to classes on campus but could fit them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good solution for students who continue to work full-time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an extra benefit, a number of online programs have lower tuitions than the more conventional on campus alternatives. Ancillary expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies might be reduced as well. Just remember that any requirements for clinical training or internships must still be met, but they can typically be carried out in Anchorage AK area health care facilities. If you can learn without the rigid structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this mode of receiving your education might be the ideal option for you. With the online lessons and the practical training, everything necessary to attain proficiency to work as a medical assistant is furnished.

Concerns to Ask Medical Assistant Schools

Before you can start examining your medical assistant school options, you must decide which type of credential you would like to attain, and if you would prefer attending classes on campus or online at home. As soon as those choices have been made, you can start the process of researching medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the opening of this article, many prospective students confine their searches to the colleges that are closest to Anchorage AK with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you should look at when assessing programs. To help you with that process, below are some questions that you should ask about each of the schools you are thinking about before making your ultimate selection.

Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are several good reasons to verify that the program you choose is accredited. To begin with, accreditation helps ensure that the instruction you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you must enroll in an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 school is not accredited by either of these agencies, you will not be qualified to take the CMA exam. Also, if you intend on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as mentioned previously, many prospective Anchorage AK employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited program.

What is the School's Passage Percentage? Most of the accredited medical assistant schools develop their programs to prepare students to pass one or more certification exams. To start with, you must learn which of the certifications the colleges you are reviewing are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for example, then naturally you will need to select 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 just one of the means to help assess the quality of a school's program. Obviously schools with low rates are those that you will want to avoid.

Which Credentials are Available? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to getting 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, however the average is about 1 year. Or you can elect to obtain an Associate Degree and receive a broader education that will require about two years to complete in a junior college or vocational school. Whatever program you elect to enroll in, verify that the colleges you are considering provide the kind of program you are interested in.

Are Internships Offered? Numerous medical assistant schools offer internship programs with Anchorage AK area health care providers. They are a great method to receive hands-on clinical training and experience. They can also assist students establish relationships within the Anchorage medical community. And as an additional benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.

Is Job Placement Service Offered? Getting that first job may be a daunting task for graduating medical assistant students unless they have some help from a job placement program. Verify that the schools you are researching offer job placement assistance in the Anchorage AK area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a high job placement rate for its graduates, it affirms that it has an excellent reputation within the health care community. It also indicates that it has a large network of contacts to help place students in jobs.

How Big are the Classes? Class size may be an indicator of how much individual instruction you will receive during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more prone to furnish greater access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to attend a few classes before enrolling in a school to experience what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.

Is Class Scheduling Accessible? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue to work full time, it's important that the college you select provides classes that accommodate your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Anchorage AK, make certain that those times are available. You might be able to fit your classes in more conveniently with an online program, but you will also have to schedule any clinical training or internships that might be required. Additionally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family responsibilities.

How to Be a Medical Assistant in Anchorage

Enroll in the Right Anchorage Medical Assistant Course

It's essential 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 pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you need to get the right info on available programs prior to making your decision. There are so many colleges providing training nowadays that you can make a decision based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, make sure that the program you select is accredited by a recognized organization, such as the CAAHEP. This is particularly important if you intend on taking the CMA certification exam. But regardless of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an online or on-campus school, be sure to ask the questions we have supplied in order to compare programs and make an informed decision. And by selecting the ideal program you can ultimately begin a gratifying career as a medical assistant in Anchorage Alaska.




 

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