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Spotlight on Medical Assisting

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Medical Assisting program at MCC prepares students for the growing field

When visiting a doctor's office, there is always someone there to call your name, take you back to a room and begin taking your vitals and asking general health questions.

When you are getting ready to leave the doctor's office, you might check out at the front desk and set up a follow-up appointment or even next year's annual appointment.

These specialists taking care of a patient as they come and go from a doctor's office or clinic are medical assistants, and the job field is always growing.

Metropolitan Community College is helping to prepare students for the job with its Medical Assisting program.

Dona Marotta, the program director, said the medical assisting field requires students to know a wide variety of duties in a clinic and doctor's office setting.

"They bring patients in, do vitals, draw blood, run analysis," she explained. "They do those things you have done in the front and back offices."

Front office duties may include answering phones, scheduling appointments, computer coding and working with insurance companies.

Meidcal assisting is not nursing, while it might be easy to get them mixed up.

"Nursing is trained for hospitals and critical care," Marotta said. "Medical assistants are trained specifically for clinical and doctor's offices. It's a very versatile career."

The Medical Assisting program, with classes held primarily at the South Omaha Campus, can be completed by earning a certificate of achievement. Many students opt to continue on and earn an associate degree in Applied Science and Professional Health Studies, which then transfers to a four-year university, said Stacey Ocander, dean of Health and Public Services. At a four-year school, students can major in nursing or go more into the management side of things so they can work higher up as a medical assistant.

In the program, Marotta said that students learn all different aspects of the healthcare system. Classes Physiology, Medical Disorders, Pharmacology l and ll, Law and Ethics, Clinical Procedures and more.

Emily Sissala, a 2014 graduate of the Medical Assisting program and current certified medical assistant in the OBGYN clinic at Methodist Physicians Clinic, liked how the program had a lot of learning by actually doing.

"I am a kinesthetic learner, so I really like that the program was hands on and had a lot of lab time."

Students also enroll in a class called Professional Development. This class is a way for students to learn how to boost their resumes and participate in mock interviews.

Sissala said the Medical Assisting program helped her feel more prepared for the workforce.

"I feel like MCC gave me the confidence in what I learned and to be able to apply it to my current job," Sissala said. "Day-to-day life is checking people in getting their vitals, helping with small procedures and dealing with drug represenatives and their samples."

After completing all the core classes, students get first-hand experience in the medical assisting workforce.

"For the first three quarters, they're in a classroom. Their summer quarter is practicum in clinics," Marotta said.

Practicum is much like an internship in other job fields. Students are assigned to work in a clinic or doctor's office for a six-week period. While there, they learn how to work in a real healthcare setting, are observed by doctors and Marotta, and are graded on their performance.

'It's all hands-on," Marotta said.

Doctor's offices and clinics throughout the metro area have offered to let Medical Assisting students come in for their practicums. From there, Marotta works with students to place them in a location that is convenient for them, whether that is near home, their day job or their child's daycare center.

'I try to get them close to where they work or their child's daycare is," she said. "I work real hard to get them somewhere that works for them."

Oftentimes, the goal is for the student to turn their practicum assignment into a full-time job after they graduate, which Marotta said isn't uncommon. The need for medical assistants is growing and expected to continue.

"There is huge growth," she said. "There's so many openings and they're looking for people. Doctors are starting to realize the importance of medical assistants. They can hire one person and cover four jobs."

To learn more about the Medical Assisting program, visibt mccneb.edu or call 531-MCC-2400.