In-person Medical Assistant Certification. Worth it?

A successful medical assistant career begins with comprehensive education and holistic training. 

Since the pandemic began, schools started searching for alternative education methods to teach students without putting their health at risk. As a result, many schools now offer online programs.

The American Association of Medical Assistants ranked the following skills as most important for medical assistants :

  1. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)
  2. Privacy of patient conversations
  3. Protected health information (appropriate document handling and disposal)
  4. Patient identification
  5. Pertinent medical information
  6. Electronic health record and electronic medical record systems, including documentation
  7. Telephone etiquette
  8. Vital signs (manual and electronic)
  9. Medical terminology
  10. Grammar

Of the top ten, seven are clinical and communication competencies best taught through an in-person program. 

Effective online programs take time to plan and execute correctly. Unfortunately, since many schools rushed to move their programs online, quality suffered. 

Many online programs have lost credibility because employers can not distinguish which programs are well-regarded. As a result, the value employers place on online education has diminished

For this reason, many schools have opted to return to in-person education while taking all the necessary precautions as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Online medical assistant training has upsides. 

  • Fewer costs : (no need to purchase scrub uniforms, and students will pay close to no transportation costs) 
  • Flexibility and access: Students may fit their class time around their busy schedules. The course is also available anywhere there is a computer and an internet connection.
  • Safety: Not attending a physical location will alleviate the worries of contracting COVID-19. 

However, short-term savings might lead to long-term loss of income. Additionally, while it will alleviate worries about contracting COVID-19, it will not guarantee any more protection than keeping a safe distance, wearing a mask, and maintaining your hands and working surface clean will.

As more adult students get their vaccinations, schools have decided to return to in-person while taking the recommended precautions. 

Here are why in-person learning is crucial for students seeking to begin their medical assistant (MA) training and careers. 

  • Hands-on training: Studies show that in-person programs allow for more hands-on training to help MAs reach the workforce with the experience needed to hit the ground running. 

Students require hands-on training with hypodermic needles, blood pressure cuffs, nebulizers, otoscopes, and more. For example, imagine a medical assistant giving an injection to a patient without ever doing it before. 

Students benefit from immediate assistance with digital troubleshooting tools in class instead of struggling for hours while they await an email response from an instructor or school IT specialist. These tools are essential for accounting, medical billing software, scheduling software, and electronic medical records keeping. 

Medical assistant duties include daily telephone conversations to set appointments, relay lab results, and work close to people under stress (for example, when taking vital signs of severely ill patients ). These encounters require strong interpersonal and communication skills, which can only be learned over time and exposure in an in-person setting.

Other benefits of an in-person medical assistant program include:

  • Direct peer interaction: allows the students to discuss patient scenarios, vent about stressors, and share resources. 
  • Direct instructor interaction: Students will benefit from immediate feedback and clarifications from instructors vs. pausing their learning process to await clarification or feedback via email. 
  • Assistance when learning with digital tools: if students are not familiar with electronic health records and electronic medical record systems or other software needed having someone close by to help is essential.

The choice is evident. For students who thrive in a structured, well-supported educational method, in-person programs are the way to go. 

Blog Post written by:
Dr. Eida Lopez
Medical Assistant Instructor