Joining us on this episode is emma Aper, the director of education for Midwest Technical Institute and Delta technical college.
Midwest Technical Institute and Delta Technical College have six locations in Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi. They are accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
Lee Doubleday: Joining us today is Emma Aper, director of education for Midwest Technical Institute and Delta Technical College. Today we would like to discuss medical assistant careers, the demand for medical assistants, and the role employer partnerships play in helping students find employment. As a leading provider of education and medical assisting, we couldn’t think of anybody better to call than Emma Aper with Midwest Tech and Delta Tech. Welcome back to the show, Emma.
Emma Aper: Thank you for having me.
Lee: Absolutely. Okay. Let’s start by telling our listeners exactly what a medical assistant is. Can you briefly explain what a medical assistant does as sort of a recap?
Emma: Sure. A medical assistant does just a little bit of everything, mostly in outpatient clinics—as far as it could be family medicine, a specialty Department or really anything but they—
Lee: A wide array of things that—
Emma: Yes. They really do train in all of the different areas. Just a little bit. They hit a surface of everything. So, it’s great because they can be utilized in the front of the office. They’re that first face that a patient sees when they come in. Or they can be in the back doing direct patient care, intervening with the doctors, working with the rest of the health care team to be a huge part of that care plan for the patient, so.
Lee: Awesome. All right. Now let’s talk a little bit about the education that you need to become a medical assistant. How long is a medical assistant program and what certifications do you need in order to be employable?
Emma: So, our medical assisting program is a nine-month course. It’s thirty-five weeks—twenty-five weeks in the classroom, and then ten weeks out at externship, getting that hands-on experience out in the clinics. Yeah. So it’s really awesome for them to get that ten weeks out in the field, and it’s kind of like a long job interview if you—[laughter] and they really do get that hands-on direct patient care, just to kind of see what department they would want to be in and just get a feel for what their interest is and—before they actually choose where they’re going to work.
Lee: Yeah, sure. It makes sense. And do they need some certification in order to be employable? And does the externship help them get that? How does that work?
Emma: Yeah. So typically, once they complete the training—the thirty-five weeks—they are eligible to take either the AMA or the MCCT. Those are the ones that we offer at MTI. And so, they can take those at the end of their education and hopefully become certified—maybe even double certified.
Lee: Okay. Yeah. Awesome. And so, is that something that you help the students do at your school, or do they have to go to a test center? How does that work?
Emma: Yes, for the AMA, they do have to go to a test center. But the MCCT, we offer it here in our building once a month.
Lee: Okay. And is that included with tuition, that test, or—?
Emma: The AMA, yes. They can actually choose which one they want to take.
Lee: Got you. Are the tests very similar?
Lee: So, if a student passes one, they’re obviously encouraged to go take the other.
Emma: Yeah, they can choose to take one or they can choose to take both.
Lee: Right. Okay. Yeah. Cool. All right. Well, we’ve always thought of medical assistants as being essential, which is what brings us to the employment part of this conversation. And we hear from employers that need medical assistants pretty bad. I mean everybody is dying for medical assistants. Can you tell us a little bit more about Midwest Tech and Delta Tech and how they partner with employers to make sure students are getting the education needed to enter the workforce?
Emma: Yeah, so we work really closely with employers, whether it’s—even around the students actually being with the employers. So, we do have a program advisory committee for every program here. For medical assisting, that would be like twice a year. I mean, typically, it’s continuous education between us and employers, just making sure that we are meeting that need in the community and communicating with them about things that our students maybe need to strengthen. Or whatever it is that the community needs—the employers, they let us know.
Lee: Yeah, I got you. So basically, you meet with the employers on a regular basis to make sure that your curriculum is up to date and what they’re looking for so that when your students graduate, you know, as the school, that they are being educated in a way that the employers are—that’s what they’re looking for.
Emma: Yeah. And we typically will work with employers. Whenever we have students that are getting ready to go to externship, we’ve gotten to the point where they have a list of things that our students can do throughout externship, and we kind of work with each other to make sure that it’s meeting the need—for the student, for the employer—that we’re covering those skills in our labs here in the building. So that way, the students are prepared when they not only go out for externship, but then when they go out to get that job.
Lee: Yeah, it makes total sense. I mean, you want to make sure that the students are prepared for their externship so that they’re successful there. And then obviously, also, after they leave the externship in your school and are in the field. And I know you’ve recently struck a new relationship with Springfield Clinic. Can you tell us a little bit more about that partnership?
Emma: Sure! So, they, obviously—like every health care system in our community—they have a severe shortage of medical assistants. So, we already were working with them to send some of our externs to their offices for them to get their externship hours complete. But we kind of just went—we took it to the next level by getting their recruiters into our buildings, getting people that are training their medical assistants—just kind of getting them in our building more often. They’re part of our program advisory committee as well, and they do a really, really great job training or medical assistants out in the field during externship, in hopes that they will eventually get hired. I mean, the best thing about all of our employers is that we have such a strong connection with them that if a student is struggling in externship or they do need to improve a certain skill or whatever it is, we have that open communication where we can just make sure that the student’s going to be successful, so.
Lee: Yeah, that’s great. And we—here at Imagine America—think it’s critically important that any higher education institution has strong relationships with employers. And learning what’s necessary to know out in the workforce is vital to educating the next generation of skilled workers. Okay. Now, let’s say I’m someone who’s interested in studying medical assisting. What are a few things that I should look for in a school that offers this program? Is it accreditation? Because that’s something we didn’t talk about today. Is it the length of program? The teachers’ experience? That’s another thing we didn’t talk about today. Obviously, the relationships with employers are important, and being able to take your certifications after the class is over. But what are a few other things—like accreditation and experienced teachers—would you say is important that students should consider when they’re looking at a medical assisting program?
Emma: Sure. So, we are accredited by the ACCSC and then, additionally, our medical assistant program is accredited by MAERB, which is the Medical Assisting Education Review Board. That allows our students to take the AMA in the end. So having that accreditation is really nice because they can take that AMA with that certification.
Lee: So, the ACCSC accreditation is also very important because that means that students are able to apply for the FAFSA because you’re title IV eligible. And then the MAERB certification is very important because that means that the students are able to take the AMA or the NCCT exams, after they’re done with their course of study, to get the certifications needed to make them employable.
Lee: Yes. And MAERB, it’s a third party. So, they have standards that we have to follow. And yeah, we’re very proud of that. It’s a very—I don’t know. It’s just that extra piece that we have, so our students can take that.
Lee: Absolutely. Yeah, students listening to this should look into making sure that their school is accredited by this institution so that they know that they’re getting the education that they need to make them employable and they’re going to be able to take those certifications. And I think it’s a certain level of a stamp of approval on your school, basically saying, “Hey, this curriculum is exactly what employers are looking for.”
Emma: Yes. And with health care, it’s ever-changing, and the standards are ever-changing—and we have to follow the standards. So, we know it’s going to be up-to-date information and we’re going to be held to the highest accountability, so.
Lee: Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, that’s something that we didn’t talk about, even the last time we did this, I don’t think we talked about that part of the accreditation, so I’m glad that we mentioned that. So, what’s one other thing would you say teachers experience and do you allow students to kind of walk and sit in the classroom before they enroll? What are some things like that that students should be thinking about?
Emma: Yeah, we definitely would let any student that was considering medical assisting watch our classes, our labs. All of our teachers are required to have three years of experience in the field. And that, again, is just kind of an accountability because our instructors, they’re not just walking in here as fresh MAs. They’ve actually been out in the field, practiced those skills on real patients. And so then, that kind of leads into medical assisting. We’re so big on hands-on. Our whole school is. So just the fact that our instructors have that experience—and they can show and speak from personal experiences—that just allows the student to get that experience in the lab and that hands-on—so that way, they are ready to get out into the field once that externship point comes.
Lee: Awesome. We are having a great conversation with Emma April, the director of education at Midwest Tech and Delta Technical College. I want to thank you for joining us on another great episode of Imagine America Radio. I hope our listeners has gained some knowledge on the medical assistant program and the importance of employer relationships. Thank you, Emma, for joining us.
Emma: Yeah, thanks again for having me.