How to Select a Medical Assistant Program near Gig Harbor Washington
Once you have decided to join the rewarding field of health care and enroll in a medical assistant school near Gig Harbor WA, it’s time to choose a school that will provide the proper training. But just how do you go about comparing and evaluating colleges so that you subsequently pick the ideal one? Many prospective students start by researching the medical assistant schools that are nearest to their homes and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are important factors also. You may want to look into a few online medical assistant programs as an option as well (more on that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a program you must complete your due diligence and compare all pertinent aspects of the colleges you are reviewing. And to assist you with that task, we have furnished several questions that you should ask all of the schools on your short list. But before we start that review, let’s briefly talk about the role of a medical assistant and the type of training and credentials that are available.
The Function of Medical Assistants
The job of a medical assistant can be diverse as well as challenging. Basically their function is to make sure that the Gig Harbor WA clinics, hospitals and other medical care facilities where they work operate successfully. 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 support to the nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. Some of the possible responsibilities of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and submitting claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Taking vital signs and weighing patients
- Collecting blood and other tissue and fluid specimens
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Providing basic support during examinations and procedures
While medical assistants can perform almost any task they are authorized to under Washington law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and earn certification. Two of the options available 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 Programs
Compared to many other healthcare practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become licensed, certified, or to have a college degree. However, a number of Gig Harbor WA health care employers prefer to hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training school (more on accreditation later ) that are certified. There are basically two options offered for a formal education. The first and fastest way to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about 1 year to finish, some as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and ready graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to obtain an Associate Degree, which are typically two year programs offered at community and junior colleges together with technical and vocational schools. They are more expansive in design than the certificate or diploma programs, and include liberal arts courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They frequently have a clinical component requiring an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a similar field.
Online Medical Assistant Colleges
There are many accredited medical assistant programs accessible online too. They are an excellent alternative for individuals who may not have the time to go to classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is an especially good option for students who continue to work full time while pursuing their degree or certificate. As an additional benefit, some online programs have cheaper tuitions than the more conventional on-campus alternatives. Supplemental costs such as for commuting, textbooks and school supplies may be reduced as well. But remember that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be satisfied, but they can often be performed in Gig Harbor WA area health care facilities. If you can learn without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on-campus, then this approach to receiving your training may be the best option for you. With the online courses and the practical training, everything needed to achieve proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As stated previously, certification is not a legal mandate, but is a good option for individuals who wish to advance their careers. It will not only help in attaining employment after graduation, but it can also enhance initial salary negotiations. Many potential Gig Harbor WA medical employers just will not employ a medical assistant that has not attained accredited formal training or certification. The most popular and possibly the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to take the CMA exam, a candidate must have graduated or will graduate within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Alternative certifications are offered also, for instance the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are provided by the NHA.
Questions to Ask Medical Assistant Schools
Prior to assessing your medical assistant school alternatives, you have to choose which kind of credential you would like to attain, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online at home. Once those selections have been made, you can begin the process of evaluating medical assistant schools. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, many prospective students confine their searches to the schools that are nearest to Gig Harbor WA with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are significant qualifications, they are not the only ones. There are a number of additional factors that you must explore when evaluating programs. To help you with that task, 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 School Accredited? There are a number of good reasons to verify that the school you enroll in is accredited. To start with, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both comprehensive and of the highest quality. Second, if you intend to become certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the approved 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 school is not accredited by either of these agencies, you will not be allowed to take the CMA exam. Additionally, if you plan on obtaining a student loan or financial aid, they are often not available for non-accredited programs. And finally, as previously mentioned, many prospective Gig Harbor WA employers will not employ a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the School’s Passage Rate? The majority of accredited medical assistant schools create their programs to prep students to pass one or more certification exams. To begin with, you need to determine which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are planning on taking the CMA for instance, then of course you will want to enroll in a program targeting that certification. Next, ask what the school’s passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. Doing this is just one of the ways to help assess the quality of a school’s program. Naturally programs with lower rates are those that you will prefer to eliminate.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are essentially two routes to getting medical assistant training. You can enroll in a diploma or certificate program and obtain 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 choose to earn an Associate Degree and receive a more comprehensive education that will require about two years to complete in a junior college or vocational school. Whatever program you choose to enroll in, verify that the schools you are looking at provide the type of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Available? A large number of medical assistant colleges sponsor internship programs with Gig Harbor WA area health care providers. They are an excellent means to receive hands-on clinical experience and training. They can also help students build relationships within the Gig Harbor healthcare community. And as an added benefit, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Service Provided? Getting that initial job may be a challenging undertaking for medical assistant school graduates unless they receive a little assistance from a job placement program. Confirm that the schools you are interviewing offer job placement assistance in the Gig Harbor WA area and ask what their placement rate is. If a college has a higher 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 Large are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indicator of how much personal attention you will receive during your training. Small classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish greater access to instructors and one-on-one interaction. If practical, try to attend a couple of classes before enrolling in a program to experience what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant college while you continue working full-time, it’s imperative that the college you choose provides classes that fit your schedule. If you need to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Gig Harbor WA, verify that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in more easily with an online college, but you will still need to schedule any 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.
Enrolling in a Medical Assistant Program near Gig Harbor Washington?
If you are considering attending a medical assistant school in the Gig Harbor WA area, following is some background information that may be both interesting and useful regarding your future campus location.
Gig Harbor, Washington
Gig Harbor is one of several cities and towns that claim to be "the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula". Due to its close access to several state and city parks, and historic waterfront that includes boutiques and fine dining, it has become a popular tourist destination. Gig Harbor is located along State Route 16, about six miles (10 km) from its origin at Interstate 5, over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. A $1.2 billion project to add a second span to the bridge was completed in 2007. From Gig Harbor, Tacoma can be reached in just under 20 minutes and Seattle in just under an hour.
During a heavy storm in 1840, Captain Charles Wilkes brought the Captain's gig (small boat) into the harbor for protection. Later, with the publication of Wilkes 1841 map of the Oregon Territory, he named the sheltered bay Gig Harbor.
Gig Harbor was officially incorporated on July 12, 1946. Commercial fishing, boat building and logging dominated the economy until the construction of the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940. Until then, the primary method of transportation between Gig Harbor and the economic center of nearby Tacoma was by steamship. Starting in 1836 steamships started plying the waters of Puget Sound and quickly developed into what was eventually dubbed "The Mosquito Fleet." Gig Harbor, isolated from Tacoma and Seattle by Puget Sound and the Tacoma Narrows, could not be reached by automobile or horseback except by a very long and arduous trip south around Puget Sound and Hammersly Inlet. The boom was to be short lived as the first bridge collapsed just months after it was completed. The resource demands of World War II prevented another bridge from being built until 1950. Between the time when the first bridge collapsed and when the second bridge was completed, a state run ferry service delivered drivers directly into downtown Gig Harbor. Remains of the ferry dock can still be seen just outside the mouth of the harbor at the southeast end of Harborview Drive. The area has been turned into a small park, where the public can see a panoramic view of the Cascade Mountains, Point Defiance and Mount Rainier.
Choose the Right Medical Assistant Training Gig Harbor WA
It’s imperative to start your new career on the right foot by picking a medical assistant school that will furnish the proper training. Regardless if you’re goal is to begin a career in health care starting out as a medical assistant or to pursue medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must obtain the right information on available programs prior to making your selection. There are such a large number of schools offering training these days that you can make a selection based upon your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have covered in this article, make sure that the program you choose is accredited by a recognized organization, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially critical if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. You came to this site initially because you had an interest in Medical Assistant Degree Programs. But irrespective of the kind 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 provided so you can compare programs and make an informed decision. And by choosing the ideal program you can ultimately begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in Gig Harbor WA.
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