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Continuing national shortage of medical assistants means increased opportunities for Houston-area Certified Medical Assistants

The challenge of providing quality healthcare continues to remain on the forefront of national and local news broadcasts as a myriad of issues rise to the surface. Nursing shortages, how to expand service to an aging baby boomer generation who are starting to require more care and facilities, and providing an increasing population of uninsured patients with expensive healthcare services they need are just some of the major concerns.

To address those issues, healthcare systems and doctors’ offices, such as Texas Children’s Hospitals, began creating an expanded staff of medical professionals to make services more streamlined and efficient, while maintaining excellent professional care.

When hospitals started facing major nursing shortages, a new Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) position was created. CMAs perform front- and back-office work, and do everything from billing and coding for insurance companies to scheduling appointments to handling injections, immunizations and blood testing. As expected, demand for these assistants grew and community colleges such as North Harris College are seeing enrollments increase. 

“The current demand for Certified Medical Assistants is huge,” said Schoenbeck, CMA and director of NHC’s medical assisting program, “and more than 200,000 additional CMAs will be needed around the country by 2012. We already are receiving requests for our students and North Houston’s medical community has been enthusiastic about our new program.”

According to a 2003 salary survey by the American Association of Medical Assistants (http://www.aama.mtl.org/), the national average was $12.97 an hour.

Jamie Johnson, 29, will graduate with the first class of medical assistants trained at North Harris College. “I like the medical field,” she explained. “After completing the training at NHC, which was very thorough, I have a good idea of what to expect in future job assignments.”

Johnson, who served her externship at Texas Children’s Pediatric Association in The Woodlands, has already received a job offer–from Texas Children’s. Several of her classmates also have received offers before graduation.

Linda Lightle, CMA, Certified Medical Office Manager and practice manager for Texas Children’s, agreed to take externs from the NHC program after visiting with the program’s director. “I’ve worked with other programs and went through a very demanding one years ago, myself, so when the instructor from NHC told us about the new program, what she expected and what she was implementing into the program, I was impressed and decided to try it. Based on our experience this semester, I guarantee I’ll be willing to take NHC externs again.”
 
Schoenbeck said students starting this fall will complete the three-semester, full-time program, attending classes Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Externships require 20 hours a week for six weeks and, the last six weeks, require 40 hours weekly. Beginning in spring 2008, the college will offer a new evening medical assisting program, requiring five semesters of classes attendance, Mondays through Thursdays, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

NHC medical assisting students complete 39 hours of college credit, including medical terminology, clinical procedures, administrative procedures, business math and business English. Their second semester, they take anatomy and physiology, which includes disease processes as well as medical insurance and coding, physician office lab procedures, pharmacology and special topics. Over the summer semester, the assistants are trained to administer EKGs and study medical law and ethics, review for the Certified Medical Assistant exam and complete a 240-hour externship in a physician’s office.

Lightle said, prior to the NHC program, she had worked with other medical assisting programs and, on occasion, had not been too impressed. “I look to see if they include any laboratory training in their curriculum,” she said. “I also look at individual externs and you can tell by talking to them, whether they have the snap, the pizzazz to be successful. I also look for people who want to learn, ask questions and aren’t afraid to try new things.

“During their externships, we often throw the students in, just to see if they can swim…and I can tell you, the externs from North Harris have been excellent.”

With additional education and training, CMA’s also have the option of going further into other healthcare careers such as nursing, physician assisting, medical technology or almost any of the allied health fields.

Applications for the fall 2007 certified medical assisting program will be accepted until July 15. Classes begin in Monday, Aug. 27. Application forms can be found at http://www.nhc.edu/. For more information about NHC’s medical assisting program, call 281.765.7915 or program advisor Carla Porter at 281. 765.7836.

North Harris College is located at 2700 W.W. Thorne Drive, one-half mile south of FM 1960 East, between Aldine-Westfield and Hardy Roads. Registration fall 2007 is now in progress. Classes begin Aug. 27. For more information about the college, call 281.618.5400 or visit northharris.lonestar.edu.

NHMCCD, among the five largest and fastest growing community colleges in Texas, comprise, Cy-Fair College, Kingwood College, Montgomery College, North Harris College, Tomball College, six satellite centers, and The University Center.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 07/05/2007

For Media Inquiries Please Contact:

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