The strength of Vermont’s state and municipal healthcare system can easily stand up to what you would find in even the most well-funded systems in the teeming metros of any state in the North East. That’s good news for the 900 medical assistants that call Vermont home and for the many medical assistant students here waiting to enter the profession.
Take, for instance, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, whose extensive reach includes more than 1,800 providers that serve a population of nearly 2 million across northern New England. From its flagship hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, nationally recognized for no less than 13 clinical specialties and procedures, to the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, one of just 51 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health is an excellent example of why Vermont’s healthcare system holds a reputation for exceptional service and outstanding patient outcomes.
If you want to join the ranks of the state’s most qualified medical assistants, you’ll need to come with a resume to impress. Here are the steps to take to do just that:
|Complete an Accredited Program in Medical Assisting|
|Earn a National Certification|
|Explore Your Career Options and Land a Job|
|Keep Your Credentials Current|
Step 1. Complete an Accredited Program in Medical Assisting
Competency is key in Vermont’s medical assistant field, which is why there is simply no substitute for completing an accredited program in medical assisting.
A formal course of study that’s accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) must meet specific education and practical training requirements, so graduating from an accredited program is your guarantee that you’ll have everything you need to serve as a competent, entry-level medical assistant. It also ensures your eligibility for national certification.
Both the CAAHEP and the ABHES accredit diploma, certificate, and associate degree programs, all three of which feature a similar course of education and training in medical assisting, including an internship/field experience.
Just some of the topics of study within these programs include:
- Micro computing applications
- Medical terminology
- Medical billing and coding for the medical assistant
- CPR and first aid
- Administrative medical assisting
- Clinical medical assisting
- Medical assisting clinical practicum
However, while a certificate or diploma program takes just 10-12 months to complete, an associate’s degree takes about 2 years to complete because it also includes a general education core – a set of courses that cover the physical sciences, the social sciences, English, mathematics, and more.
These courses translate into stronger analytical and verbal/written communication skills on the job, so many top healthcare employers now require (or at least prefer) candidates who have completed an associate’s degree. You may also find it beneficial to complete an associate’s degree because it results in better/more varied job opportunities and a bigger paycheck.
The Associate of Science (AS) degree should be your program of choice if you have goals of advancing your education to the bachelor’s level at some point in your career, as most or all of the courses with in an AS transfer to bachelor’s degrees in healthcare-related fields.
Step 2. Earn a National Certification
The completion of an accredited program in medical assisting guarantees your eligibility for national certification. National certification may not be a requirement to practice, but certification should always be on your to-do list if you want to remain competitive in the field.
While a number of national credentials in medical assisting exist, the three most popular include:
Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
You’ll earn the CMA through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) by taking and passing the Certified Medical Assistant Exam. This exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions that test your knowledge in the following areas:
- Administrative subjects
- Medical reception, appointment scheduling, and finance management
- Medical business practices and ethics
- Creation of a patient’s medical record
- Clinical subjects
- Anatomy and physiology
- Documentation of care and patient intake
- Infection control
- Physician and patient medical assisting
- Collecting and processing specimens
- Administering and reporting diagnostic tests
- Emergency management and first aid
- General subjects
- Psychology, medical ethics, and communication
- Professionalism, medical law and regulatory guidelines
- Safety, quality assurance and risk management
- Medical terminology
You’ll apply online to take the test, which is offered at Prometric testing centers throughout the nation. There is one testing center in Williston and a handful of testing centers in nearby New Hampshire.
Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
You’ll earn the RMA through the American Medical Technologists (AMT) by taking the RMA exam. You may also earn eligibility by earning a CMA through the AAMA. Once you’ve earned CMA credential, you can apply for the RMA credential.
Nationally Registered Certified Medical Assistant (NRCMA)
You’ll earn the NRCMA through the National Association of Health Professionals (NAHP) by taking the NRCMA exam.
Step 3. Explore Your Career Options and Land a Job
Once you have a fine-looking resume that includes an accredited medical assisting program and national certification, you’ll be ready to find a job in medical assisting you’ll love. Locate some of the top jobs in the profession by checking out employment opportunities through the state’s largest health systems:
- The University of Vermont Medical Center, Burlington
- Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, Brattleboro
- Northwestern Medical Center, Saint Albans
- Rutland Regional Medical Center, Rutland
- Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, Bennington
Membership in a professional association is a great way to locate exciting continuing education opportunities, network and connect with your colleagues, and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings in the profession. Although Vermont does not have its own state chapter of the American Association of Medical Assistants, the AAMA recommends joining the national AAMA association. If you would like information on joining the AAMA or starting a Vermont chapter of the AAMA, contact the AAMA Membership Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Step 4. Keep Your Credentials Current
Each national certification requires maintenance and renewal:
- To maintain the CMA, you’ll renew it every 5 years by either retaking the CMA Exam or by completing at least 60 re-certification points as follows:
- 10 points relating to administrative duties
- 10 points relating to clinical duties
- 10 points relating to general duties
- 30 points from AAMA-approved continuing education units
- To maintain the RMA, you’ll renew it annually and complete 30 Certification Continuing Program (CCP) points every three years.
- To maintain the NRCMA, you must complete at least two Class A Continuing Education Units (CEUs) each year and renew it annually.