They may greet patients and answer phones one minute and assist the physician during an exam the next, but that’s all in a day’s work for Connecticut’s medical assistants. According to the Connecticut Department of Labor, the profession will see job growth that runs parallel to the aging population and the increased demand they place on health services, something that’s already being seen in major healthcare systems like Yale New Haven and Hartford HealthCare.
As Connecticut’s population ages, the demand for primary care services is expected to grow by 14 per cent through 2021, which will create the need for more medical assistants in doctors’ offices and clinics. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, three out of four medical assistants in Connecticut work in physicians’ offices, handling clerical duties like scheduling appointments and handling insurance paperwork. In addition to these duties, they also take vital signs and collect lab specimens from patients. It isn’t uncommon for them to prepare the patient before the doctor’s exam, either.
In hospitals, medical assistants work closely with nurses and doctors, depending on their speciality. They do everything from collecting specimens in the lab to sending text messages asking patients if they would like pain medication and verifying dosage with the pharmacist.
In fact, between 2019 and 2021, the number of medical assistants in Connecticut will increase by an impressive 4.5%. And with about 1,110 annual openings expected during this time due to new job growth coupled with normal turnover in the industry, chances are good that you’ll enter a strong job market with no shortage of opportunities for anybody who takes the steps necessary to develop the clinical and administrative skills it takes to do the job.
The first step on the path toward becoming a medical assistant is getting the education needed to succeed. In this article, we’ll walk you through everything from how much it costs and where you can study to what your future holds once you graduate. We’ll also explore dozens of programs available to those who live in or around Hartford, New Haven and Stamford.
To learn how to become a highly qualified medical assistant in Connecticut, follow these steps:
|Complete a Medical Assistant Program|
|Earn National Certification|
|Find a Job in Medical Assisting|
Although the Connecticut Department of Public Health has not drawn up a scope of practice document for medical assistants practicing in the state, they do have regulations about what tasks can and cannot be performed by unlicensed health professionals like medical assistants. Under Connecticut law, medical assistants, as unlicensed health professionals, may NOT:
- Administer medications
- Perform radiography
- Assess, diagnose, plan, and evaluate patients/patient care
Medical assistants may:
- Collect data to be used by licensed health care professionals in diagnosis, treatment, care planning, etc.
- Offer health maintenance education not related to a diagnosis
- Assist in handling equipment in preparation for procedures or following up on procedures
In Connecticut, medical assistants can only work under the direct or general supervision of licensed health care professionals such as nurses or physicians.
Step 1. Complete a Medical Assistant Program
While the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) doesn’t license medical assistants in the state, they do provide recommendations for how these allied health professionals should prepare for the job. Naturally, it all starts by completing an accredited educational program.
You can achieve an entry-level education in medical assisting through a certificate, diploma, or associate degree program. While the programs offered at reputable schools with basic institutional accreditation are absolutely fine, if you go with an option that has received program-specific accreditation from either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), you can be sure it has a comprehensive curriculum that includes all the coursework and practical training today’s healthcare industry demands of entry-level medical assistant.
There are currently 24 CAAHEP-accredited programs in Connecticut offering programs both online and on-campus, with locations all over the state:
- East Hartford
- New London
- West Haven
There are currently 8 ABHES-accredited programs both online and in cities like:
- East Hartford
- Rocky Hill
While you’ll find that certificate, diploma, and associate degree programs all provide a similar blend of classroom and practical training in medical assisting, associate degrees are longer in duration than certificate and diploma programs (2 years vs. 10-12 months) because they also include a general education core.
As a result of this additional level of education, which includes courses designed to elevate your written and verbal communication skills, potential employers are likely to see you as a more qualified candidate. Holding an associate’s degree can also mean more earning power and access to better job opportunities.
An associate’s degree is also the program of choice if you have aspirations of continuing your education at the bachelor’s level at some point. The credits earned in an Associate of Science (AS) can easily be transferred to a bachelor’s in areas like health administration or other allied health fields. Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees are also widely available, the only difference being that they are strictly designed to provide career training so they don’t typically allow you to transfer credits toward a bachelor’s.
Step 2. Earn National Certification
National certification is a common pursuit in a profession that’s unlicensed, and medical assisting is no exception. Earning national certification positions you as a desirable candidate because it signifies to employers that you’ve achieved an advanced level of knowledge and expertise in the profession, and demonstrated you have it all down pat by passing an exam. With national certification on your resume, you may also qualify for higher wages and enjoy more opportunities for advancement.
The American Association of Medical Assistants’ (AAMA) Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) is one of the more popular certifications among Connecticut medical assistants. To qualify to take the certification exam, you must be a graduate of a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited medical assistant education program or be able to show that your program was equivalent. The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions organized into four segments. For an overview of the exam content, consult the CMA (AAMA) Certification/Recertification Examination Content Outline. You can take the exam through Prometric testing centers in Norwalk, Glastonbury, and North Haven. Once you earn the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) designation, you’ll be listed on the DPH website’s list of Connecticut residents certified by the American Association of Medical Assistants.
Alternatively, you can qualify to sit for American Medical Technologist (AMT): Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) exam by completing a medical assisting program from a school with general institutional accreditation from an agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education. The program must consist of at least 720 program clock hours in medical assisting and must include a clinical externship of at least 160 hours. You may also qualify by completing a formal medical services training program through the U.S. Armed Forces. Pearson Vue Testing Centers offers the RMA examination. Schedule your examination as soon as you meet the requirements so you can select your preferred test time, date, and location.
Other Medical Assistant Certifications Available
While the CMA and RMA are the most popular credentials among Connecticut’s medical assistants, there are other national certifications worth pursuing, both in general skills and specifically for MAs in certain specialty medical practices. They include:
- National Healthcare Association: Certified Clinical Medical Assistant
- National Center for Competency Testing: The National Certified Medical Assistant
- The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel In Ophthalmology: Certified Ophthalmic Assistant
- The American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants: Podiatric Medical Assistant, Certified
Step 3. Find a Job in Medical Assisting
The Connecticut Society of Medical Assistants is the leading professional organization for medical assistants working in Connecticut and a great resource for networking with colleagues, staying current on changes to the profession, and finding continuing education opportunities to keep your national certification current.
Once you’re ready to enter the workforce and put those hard-earned credentials to good use, you’ll find great opportunities through some of Connecticut’s largest medical groups and clinics:
- University of Connecticut Health Center – Farmington
- Yale New Haven Health – New Haven
- TLC Pediatrics, LLC – Norwalk
- Stamford Hospital – Stamford
- Middlesex Hospital – Madison
- Western Connecticut Medical Group – Danbury
- New Milford Hospital – New Milford
- Saint Francis Care – Hartford
- Bristol Hospital – Bristol
- Vein Clinics of America – Glastonbury
2019 job growth projections from the Connecticut Department of Labor are aggregated through the U.S. Department of Labor-Sponsored resource, Projections Central. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
All salary and employment data accessed July 2020.