A new certificate program at Missouri State University-West Plains will fill a growing need in the healthcare industry.
The Medical Assistant Certificate is a one-year, 24-credit-hour program that will prepare students for positions in physician offices, clinics, surgery clinics and specialty clinics, according to Tresa Ryan director of the health information technology program at Missouri State-West Plains.
Open positions for medical assistants are projected to grow 23 percent through 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “Occupational Outlook Handbook.”
As the number of aging “baby boomers” continues to increase, demand for preventative services provided by physicians will grow, labor officials indicate in the handbook. As a result, physicians will hire more assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical duties, allowing physicians to see more patients.
“Certification in these skills is required for most employers in the region,” Ryan said. “The ability to demonstrate ones level of expertise through certification will help an individual who has completed this program stand out in the application and hiring process.”
Lab models job responsibilities
To ensure students receive the best possible training, Ryan said a medical assistant lab has been developed on campus to provide students with an actual model for clinical and laboratory responsibilities in a medical clinic.
Some of the duties a medical assistant may be asked to do include scheduling appointments, maintaining medical records, billing and coding for insurance purposes, taking and recording vital signs and medical histories, preparing patients for examination, drawing blood, and administering medications as directed by a physician.
“Giving the student the opportunity to practice these skills in this type of setting will help with confidence and familiarity when employed,” she explained.
Students enrolled in the program, which runs from January through December, will earn their certification through National Healthcareer Association (NHA), Ryan said.
“Our students will be taking the certification exam during their last semester,” she said. “Thanks to Perkins Grant funding, we will pay the cost of this initial certification exam, which is good for two years.”
Ryan pointed out the Medical Assistant Certificate will translate into the university’s Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Technology (HIT) degree.
“Students may decide at a later date they want to further their career, and they will have that ability through our HIT degree,” she explained.
Eligible for Fast Track funding
Another attractive component of the certificate program is its eligibility for funding through Missouri’s new Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant.
This new financial aid program addresses workforce needs by encouraging adults to pursue a certificate, degree or industry-recognized credential in an area designated as high need.
The financial aid program ensures, when combined with other government resources, that tuition and fees are fully covered for eligible students age 25 and older who are seeking a degree, certificate or industry-recognized credential in a high-demand career.
Students younger than 25 also may be eligible to receive the grant if they haven’t been enrolled in any educational program within the last two years.
“For eligible students, this is a great opportunity to obtain a credential that will lead to a good-paying job virtually free,” Ryan said.
Missouri State-West Plains is currently enrolling students for its first Medical Assistant Certificate cohort, which begins in January. Ryan noted that five of the eight courses required for the certificate will be offered online.
For more information about the Medical Assistant Certificate and how to apply, email WPHIT@MissouriState.edu or call Ryan at 417-255-7786.
Information about the Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant can be found at wp.missouristate.edu/fast-track.