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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

What Learning Looks like for a Clinical Medical Assisting Student at SJVC

August 12, 2021

Tedious classroom lectures don’t have to be part of medical assistant training. The Clinical Medical Assisting (CMA) program at SJVC prides itself on providing an engaging, hands-on learning experience in the classroom as well as the lab. Teachers are constantly using new and innovative strategy to keep students interested, give students a deeper understanding of the material, and to help them build the confidence they will later bring to their medical assistant jobs. Students often say the school day flies by; it’s because they are engaged.

In a pharmacology class, for example, when students learn about different routes of medications in the human body, they often stand—engaging the whole body—and form groups, instead of sitting at their desks. They brainstorm and illustrate routes by placing sticky notes throughout the room. They create a “gallery walk,” where each takes a turn acting as the docent, teaching the others as they tour human body, understanding and retaining the details of pharmacology as both teacher and student. Honing teaching skills is important for medical assistants in the real world, where they will regularly teach patients and often teach other MAs on the job.


Leadership, Professionalism, & Career Support

Professionalism and leadership are other built-in aspects of the CMA program. Students are taught the importance of not missing a moment: being on time means arriving early. A mentorship program gives students opportunities to be both mentee and mentor; new students are paired with more experienced students, whom they can turn to for support and guidance.

Teachers work hand and in hand with a very connected, involved Career Services department; they communicate daily about their students. Having the support of faculty who knows students well—their strengths as well as their challenges—can help match them to a great externship experience, and in turn, a great career.



Externship—the part of the CMA program when a student learns by working in a doctor’s office or clinic—is an incredibly valuable part of the program; it provides hands-on experience in a real-world setting. Although the CMA program lab mimics real-world situations well, nothing compares to being with a patient who is not a classmate. There is a confidence gained by finally applying all the learned skills, being professional, and thinking in the moment.

Externships at specialty offices—such as a plastic surgeon, dermatologist, or pediatrician—give students additional experience and a more in-depth, real-life experience; they will finally see what they’d only mimicked in lab before.


Challenges & Success

Although challenges differ for each student, some find it challenging to adjust to the workload of an accelerated program. It can take students time to find a school/life balance and organize their time efficiently, but support is here for them through mentorship, career services, and a faculty that loves teaching, encourages students, and loves to see them succeed.


Learn more about a career as a medical assistant

Check out our guide on how to become a medical assistant in California. Learn about the skills needed, job outlook, salary and more.

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