SJVC’s Medical Assisting program stays current with certification requirements
San Joaquin Valley College is proud to offer a Medical Assisting program that gives its graduates every opportunity to jump to the top of the list of qualified candidates applying for various healthcare positions.
Qualification for those choice positions includes preparation and encouragement for each Medical Assistant student to take the National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) or Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam.
Certified or “credentialed” Medical Assistants will become standard practice in medical facilities and offices as recent laws come into effect.
“We have always offered the NCMA exam to our Medical Assisting students, but participation in taking this exam has been fairly low in the past,” says Shannon Koh, Academic Dean for the Temecula campus. “We initiated an all-campus push when we realized how consequential this law is going to be.”
In the past, Medical Assistant grads might have shied away from taking this exam because employers did not seem to put a must-have value on this certification. However, a new component of certification is becoming a government mandate, and employers will eventually comply with this by hiring Medical Assistants with this credential.
Medical offices are switching to Electronic Health Records (EHR), a software program that will replace paper records and transfer current patient data to electronic files – a time-consuming effort. Medical Assistants are now expected to have training and certification in EHR as a prerequisite to hiring.
The government’s Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records Incentive Programs provide financial incentives for the meaningful use of certified EHR technology to improve patient care. To receive an incentive payment, providers (medical offices) have to show that they are meaningfully using their EHRs by meeting thresholds for some stated objectives.
Practical uses include recording patient vital signs, active diagnoses, patient demographics, prescription history and patient chart changes.
Many medical offices are going electronic and expect their Medical Assistants to be fully knowledgeable and certified to perform in this new environment.
“A lot of medical employers don’t realize that they are out of compliance,” says Koh. “But others tell our students that they want them to get this credential right now.”
“I have already seen many job postings that ask specifically for Medical Assistants with their certification, so I know how important it is to have this,” says Erica Blahnik, Medical Assisting student on the Temecula campus.
SJVC and the Medical Assisting program are expanding curriculum to emphasize NCMA exam components, especially as it relates to electronic health records. “We have implemented areas and questions in each class that are more test-oriented,” says Shannon. “We are introducing more ‘test language’ into our students’ class work.”
“They work to make sure we were ready for this test,” says Serena Gomez, Medical Assistant student. “It’s definitely going to make me more hirable.”
The Medical Assistant program’s objective is to make certain all graduating Medical Assisting students realize the importance of certification, and take the national exam as a matter of natural course.
“Our goal is to treat this as though it is not an option,” says Shannon. “Students are getting the urgency and are opting for the buy-in.”
“SJVC wants all (Medical Assisting) students to take this exam, because they care about their reputation to put out quality students, and they want us to be successful,” says Erica. “They know that the field will want us to have this.”
The Medical Assisting program provides practice exams for those about to take the national test. “We schedule review sessions every month, and Medical Assisting students can have as many review tests as they want – even if they graduated months ago,” says Shannon, who recommends that review tests be taken as close to the national exam appointment as possible, while information is fresh.
“I feel the exam is preparing me in a different way from my regular Medical Assisting courses,” says Erica. “It gives me a deeper knowledge of the profession.”
The emphasis on certification testing is paying off. Last year, only 26% of Medical Assisting grads on the Temecula campus sat for the NCMA exam, while this year (to date) 41% of their Medical Assisting grads took the test.
SJVC is committed to giving Medical Assisting students all they need to meet standards of their profession and enjoy the greatest opportunity for career success.
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