Should You Get Your Medical Assistant Certification? Is It Important?

Interview with Duane Rough, Certified Medical Assistant and Instructor to Medical Assistant Students

Duane Rough, Certified Medical Assistant and Instructor to Medical Assistant Students

In the field, Duane Rough is a certified medical assistant (having earned an American Association of Medical Assistant certification), working with physician at one of the leading orthopedic and fracture specialty treatment centers in the Pacific Northwest. As an instructor, Rough teaches medical assistant students at Concorde Career College, focusing on educating students on a hybrid of anatomy, physiology, and biology. He is also certified by the American Heart Association to instruct CPR and first aid. As involved in the medical field as Duane Rough is, his career didn’t begin in healthcare.

Rough joined his family’s business after he graduated high school, but once that business was sold, he was interested in finding a career in a growing field. And healthcare seemed to be the perfect industry. He then enrolled in a medical assisting program at Concorde Career College, going on to earn his Associate of Science degree at City University of Seattle. He’s currently continuing his education by pursuing his Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Business Administration and Human Resources with an emphasis on Healthcare Ethics.

As an instructor and a working medical assistant, Rough sees the growing need for medical assistants to earn certification to benefit both students and potential employers. Read on to learn about Duane Rough’s experience in the healthcare industry from the perspective of an instructor of medical assistants and as a medical assistant himself.

Please explain the different levels of education for a medical assisting career. For example, what are the benefits of a certificate program versus an associate’s degree?

Compared to an associate’s degree, which typically takes two years to achieve, a certificate program allows aspiring MAs (medical assistants) to complete their professional training more quickly and with a tighter focus on the skills needed for their careers. By selecting a certificate program that can be completed in thirty weeks, students will maximize the time spent in school and have a shorter path to a good career in the medical field. The medical assisting certificate program also teaches students what they need to know to be successful in their field.  As an instructor at Concorde, I make sure that labs and lessons are tailored to my students’ needs, and the focused instruction means that students in this certificate program are not forced to take classes that cover subjects or material they will never use on the job.

What can you tell us about the certification process for medical assisting?

When students graduate from an MA programs, they can sit for the AAMA (American Association for Medical Assistants) exam. The exam is proctored and is a difficult exam, but the students get all of the information during their time in class, so they are ready for the exam. I even teach a class after the students graduate that they can come back and take to refresh their skills

What are some challenges you face when teaching medical assisting?

Some challenges I face when teaching is trying to connect with each student’s unique learning style. The program I teach is fast-paced and requires that each student keep up with the material presented. I work hard to help each student succeed by utilizing each student’s strengths.

How has the field of medical assisting changed since you entered it?

The need for certification is a must in the field now. This was not the case when I graduated, but I am fortunate that my instructors at Concorde recommended then that I become certified, and I followed that advice.

The certification exam tests a wide range of knowledge gathered during MA coursework and practical experience, including anatomy and physiology and medical terminology. Other knowledge you will gain as you prepare for certification in the field include psychology and strong communication skills, including nonverbal communication and therapeutic responses to diverse populations.

Where, in your opinion, is the field of medical assisting heading?

Medical assisting is a great entry into the medical field, where a person could have a good career and potentially earn a good wage. There are also a number of opportunities for medical assistants to grow within the medical field, providing various avenues for the medical assistant to continue to build his or her skillset.

Are there any particular medical assisting technologies that you are excited about? If so, how are they changing the field?

More employers prefer to hire medical assistants who are certified.The increasing need for certification is something I am excited about because it gives graduates of accredited programs a ready way to demonstrate the depth of their knowledge when applying for jobs. Certification also provides a bar that every aspiring medical assistant must meet: Employers can be confident that even a new medical assistant is well-versed in the wide scope of general, clinical, and administrative knowledge tested by the certification exams and utilized on the job. Certification also demands continuing education, requiring the working medical assistant to stay up to date on advances in his or her specialty or re-earn certification every few years.

What types of qualities and skills may make a student more suited to a successful career as a medical assistant?

Qualities: A desire to learn. A desire to provide a better life for themselves or their families. An excitement about helping/caring for others. An interest in the medical or medically related fields. A desire to go back to school or start a second career.

Skills: Top-notch customer service. Good people skills. Empathy and understanding others. Having an “other” perspective. Being able to keep their cool in stressful situations. Being a leader. Being able to multi-task and change directions quickly.

What do you think are some of the potential challenges for students pursuing medical assisting degrees? Do you have any suggestions about how to cope?

The coursework for those pursuing medical assisting degrees is challenging. My advice to students would be to not panic – although it is difficult, it is not impossible. The information may seem overwhelming, but with the right study skills and a stick-to-it attitude, you can succeed.

It’s also a good idea to find a teacher or a tutor you connect with and ask them for study tips and ideas. Many times it is how you study, not what you study, that makes you a success. Be open to new ways of thinking and new study tips.

Do you have any other advice for students who are interested in entering the field?

Enroll in school now. Each day you delay, your life is passing by. Unless you make a change, you will be in the same place you are now a year from now. The time is good for medical assistants who become certified. Enroll in a quality school with quality instructors who truly care about your success (as I do about that of my students), and brush up on your people skills. I believe if you make these choices today, you will never regret them.

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