Colton: Health Care Needs Medical Assistants
(COLTON, Calif.) “Wherever there are patients, a medical assistant is needed,” says Four-D College Medical Assistant Program Director Cheryl Jerzak.
Jerzak and a staff of five instructors prepare their students for work in the many health care settings where medical assistants are needed. The Four-D College Medical Assistant program takes eight to 10 months to complete.
Since Four-D College began offering the program, 505 people have graduated from it.
As a medical assistant they can work in either the administrative office of a health care provider (often known as front office) or in a role requiring direct involvement with patients (known as clinical or back office.)
“If someone comes to Four-D College and quickly finds out they hate the sight of blood, they can still be a medical assistant in the front office,” Jerzak said.
Medical assistants in an administrative setting perform such work as appointment setting, receptionist duties, record keeping, arranging hospital admissions, and obtaining authorizations from insurance companies for specific treatments.
Although Four-D College has another program to train students in the complexities of medical coding and billing, graduates of its Medical Assistant program are adequately trained to work as medical billers for many health care providers.
Other medical assistants aid physicians with examinations, medical procedures and even surgeries. These assistants work in both clinics and hospitals.
Their duties include taking vital signs, explaining treatment procedures to patients, preparing patients for examinations, and assisting the doctor during examinations. Medical assistants also prepare laboratory specimens, perform basic lab tests, sterilize medical instruments and maintain equipment.
“As a medical assistant, my first job is to do my best to comfort the patient if they are in pain,” said Anna Knorr, 2010 Four-D College medical assistant graduate. “I take their blood pressure and vital signs, and if they have a high fever, I do my best to reduce it. Finally, I let them know the doctor will help them as soon as they can.”
Regardless of whether their employment will be in an office setting or dealing in a hands-on way with patients, future medical assistants take the same eight-month preparation program. In this program of seven courses, each lasting about one month, they learn medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, administrative and clinical procedures, insurance billing and coding (both manually and using computerized systems).
Students are also taught the requirements of the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which govern what a health care provider can disclose about a patient’s care and to whom.
“A successful medical assistant does much more than take vital signs,” continued Knorr. “At Four-D College, you learn to understand the importance of the patient nurse relationship, how to be professional and show compassion for the different needs of each patient, making sure everything is kept confidential.”
At the end of their studies, which include classroom instruction and hands-on practice in instructional labs, the students complete a 160-hour externship with a health care provider.
The students are then eligible to take two tests. The Registered Medical Assistant Exam, which is included in their tuition, is offered by the American Medical Technologists.
The students can also independently take the Certified Medical Assistants exam through the American Association of Medical Assistants, which is part of the American Medical Association.
Students can enroll in the program at the Colton or Victorville campus. Financial Aid is available to those who qualify.
To be admitted to the Medical Assistant program, students must be at least 17 years old. and pass an entrance exam. While a high school diploma is helpful, students who do not have that or a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) can enroll concurrently in a free program offered by Four-D College to help them get a GED.
The Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and the Bureau for Private Post Secondary and Vocational Education and National Medical Association have accredited this program.
Four-D College provides education in the growing health care field at locations in Colton and Victorville. It offers programs in medical assistant, medical billing and coding, dental assistant, massage therapy, pharmacy technician and vocational nursing.
New courses begin monthly at Four-D College and courses are offered in the morning, afternoon and evening. Call (909) 783-9331 or (760) 962-1325 for more information or a free tour go to www.4DCollege.edu.
Photo caption: Anna Knorr , at right, checks the blood pressure of April Fibraw at Mike’s Walk-In Clinic in Hesperia. Anna completed her education to become a medical assistant at Four-D College. Photo by Chris Sloan