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5 Steps To Becoming A Certified Medical Assistant

If you’re service-oriented, flexible and dedicated to patient care, becoming a certified medical assistant may be a good career path for you. You can choose a variety of different training programs to become a medical assistant, such as on-the-job training, online training, on-campus training, or even a medical assistant program that combines all these elements. If you’re interested in finding a certificate program, here are the steps you can take to become a certified medical assistant.

5 Steps to Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant

1. Complete Appropriate Training

2. Apply and Study for the Certification Exam

3. Pass the CMA Exam

4. Ace Your Job Interview

5. Keep Your Momentum

It’s possible to become a medical assistant with simply a high school diploma or GED, plus appropriate on-the-job training – but most employers prefer to hire medical assistants that have already gone through formal training and been certified through an accredited program. In fact, it’s often difficult to find a physician who is willing to hire an untrained and inexperienced medical assistant. Becoming certified also typically ensures that you can expect a higher pay grade – as much as $12,000 higher than a non-certified medical assistant, by some estimates. Going through the certification process is a good signal to employers that you’ve been tested and shown to display the kind of skills and expertise they want for their patients.

Medical Assistant Job Overview

A medical assistant supports physicians, nurses, patients and other members of a health care team. Medical assistants carry out a wide variety of important tasks, some of which are more administrative in nature, while others involve directly working with patients. Some of those administrative duties may include things like answering telephones and scheduling appointments, updating patients’ medical records, submitting insurance requests, and coordinating hospital intake or laboratory tests. In particular, electronic medical records management is becoming a larger component of medical assistant duties.

More clinical duties may include drawing blood or removing sutures, assisting physicians during exams, taking medical histories and helping patients prepare for the examination. In addition, most medical assistants will know how to take vital signs. Many times, a medical assistant may be the first person a patient interacts with inside a medical office – and some medical assistants may also give injections or medications as permitted by state law under the direction of a physician. A certified medical assistant may also assist with prescription preparation or changes and help with some minor outpatient clinical procedures.

Overall, the outlook is positive for medical assistant jobs, as aging baby boomers continue to drive demand for medical assistance. This strain on the physician population means that more opportunities will grow for medical assistants to perform basic clinical and administrative duties. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 160,000 new jobs are forecast to be available to medical assistants across the nation between 2012 and 2022 – an employment growth rate that’s much faster than average. You’ll typically see most medical assistants working in primary care, which is a steadily growing slice of the medical field.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a successful medical office assistant will display the following characteristics: communication skills, ability to work well under pressure, attention to detail, customer service ability, listening skills, knowledge of medical terminology, clerical skills, knowledge of medical treatment and more. In general, someone starting out as a certified medical assistant can expect to earn around $40,000 at the beginning of their career.

5 Steps to Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant

While being certified isn’t always a requirement for medical assistant jobs, it is certainly recommended and preferred. Here are the steps you can take to obtain medical assistant certification.

1. Complete Appropriate Training

Before you can take your certification exam, you must complete training through an accredited program – and choosing the right program for you can be a daunting task. You’ll want to look for a program that has been accredited through either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Going through the medical assistant certification process typically takes around a year or less.

You should give some thought to how you might like your medical career to develop so that you can choose the right kind of medical assistant training. For example, if you eventually want to move into other healthcare fields, you might want to pursue an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree before taking your exam. This helps lay the foundation for future study. But if you want to move quickly into the workforce, you might prefer going for a different kind of certificate program that’s more streamlined. Certificates can be earned through technical or vocational schools or online. There are even hybrid programs that incorporate both classroom and online study.

Carefully consider the types of courses offered as well – while most medical assistants handle a wide variety of tasks, you do have the option with some programs of specializing in a specific area, like administration or patient care. Administrative specialties will include coursework in medical billing issues, insurance, and general customer service, while a patient care field of study will emphasize skills like medical terminology, EKG, anatomy, and phlebotomy. You also have the option of specializing in a particular field, such as ophthalmology, obstetrics, or podiatry.

Most training programs will include some type of hands-on training or externship in order to build clinical experience. If you can handle the workload, you may also consider finding an entry-level position just to help gather clinical experience along the way as you study. Look for opportunities with doctors’ offices, clinics, and hospitals.

2. Apply and Study for the Certification Exam

Before you take your exam, you need to apply through the appropriate accrediting body. You’ll need to show that you’ve completed appropriate training and have all the proper documentation. During this process, you’ll likely be able to select the date on which you’d like to take your exam. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to study for your certification exam; even with appropriate training, the test is challenging.

But you do have many options for guided test preparation. You can find several exam preparation programs available from a variety of professional organizations – and if it’s helpful, the American Association of Medical Assistants even offers a CMA practice exam you can take to gauge your readiness. These kinds of programs can supplement your previous work and focus your efforts on what’s most important for acing the exam.

3. Pass the CMA Certification Exam

While most states don’t require that you be certified to be employed as a medical assistant, the credential is preferred by most employers. You have several options to choose from in terms of accrediting bodies and the exams they offer. For example, the National Center for Competency Testing offers the National Certified Medical Assistant exam. The Certified Medical Assistants exam, from the American Association of Medical Assistants, is given in January, June, and October every year. Additionally, the National Health career Association offers a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant credential, and the corresponding Certified Medical Administrative Assistant certification.

Whichever test you take, make sure you’re familiar with the testing center you’ll use – especially its test-taking policies, along with what to bring with you and what to expect the day of your exam. Generally, you’ll receive an initial pass/fail notice as soon as you submit your exam, with your official results following by mail within three to four weeks.

4. Ace Your Job Interview

Once you have your certification, you’re well-positioned to ace an interview with a physician’s office and get to work. Make sure to carefully research the facility and team you’re interviewing with, and practice answers to questions that showcase your skills, what you know about the medical practice, and how well you’ll fit into the team’s culture. Also, make sure to come armed with your own questions that show your interest in both the practice as a whole and the specific position.

5. Keep Your Momentum

Don’t let getting your first medical assistant job be the punctuation mark on your career; once you’ve taken this step, make sure you look for opportunities to take your career even further. For example, you may eventually decide to go back to school in order to enhance your career options. If you earn an associate degree initially, you may decide to go back for a bachelor’s degree. Or you can also choose to expand your options as a medical assistant by becoming additionally certified in a variety of areas, like office programs, medications, phlebotomy or others.

Medical Equipment Needed as a Medical Assistant

Certified medical assistants are called upon to successfully operate a wide variety of medical equipment in the course of their day-to-day duties. For example, a medical assistant in a primary care or other clinical setting may use any of the following:

Exam lights
Electrocardiogram machine
Hemoglobin machine
Ultrasound machine
Biohazard Sharps Containers
Ear scopes
Surgical instruments like forceps, scalpels, etc.

Ultimately, the types of medical tools a certified medical assistant will need to use will depend on the type of office setting and the office equipment favored by the health care staff. Some pieces of equipment, like EKG machines, computers, X-ray equipment, and scales will be supplied by the employer, while other, more personal pieces of equipment, like a stethoscope, penlights, etc. may need to be purchased independently by the medical assistant. In general, the major medical equipment will be supplied by the medical facility, while the smaller tools of the trade that a medical assistant might carry throughout the day may need to be purchased independently by the specific medical assistant.

In addition, clinical medical assistants will need to be well-versed in infection control – most medical offices use standardized sterilization products like Hibiclens or Cavicide to ensure that their clinical areas remain pathogen-free for the safety of both patients and the medical team. It’s likely that once hired by a particular medical practice, you will receive any appropriate training on that medical team’s specific equipment.

Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant

If you’re interested in becoming a certified medical assistant, your choice is a good one – medical assistant jobs are some of the most appealing in the healthcare industry, and good medical assistants are in high demand. Medical assistants are vital and valued members of the health care community. A position as a certified medical assistant can offer solid pay and benefits, job security and continued employment potential. While not required in most states, certification is strongly recommended within the healthcare industry.

Overall, the process for becoming certified is reasonably attainable, especially when compared with its benefits. If you decide to pursue medical assistant certification, follow the steps listed here, and you’ll be well on your way to success in one of the most rewarding and promising career paths within the medical industry.

Content shared from USA Medical and Surgical Supply


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The Career Outlook for Medical Assisting

If you’re thinking of training to be a medical assistant, this could be a great career path to follow. To help you make an informed decision about pursuing a career in medical assisting we have attempted to answer the following questions:

Number of Schools with Medical Assisting Graduates

Number of Schools with Medical Assisting Graduates

Firstly, let’s look at how many schools offer medical assistant training. The total number of educational institutions providing 1 year certificate, 2 year diploma and Associate’s degree medical assisting programs rose from 1,840 in 2011 to 1,944 in 2013. The majority of programs were 2 year diplomas, followed by degrees. The biggest increase was in 2 year diplomas.

Completion Trends

Completion Trends

Although the number of schools offering medical assisting training has been increasing, the number of completions – that is the number of people graduating – has declined by quite a lot since 2011. There were overall 140,000 medical assisting graduates in 2011, of which 86 percent came from private for profits institutions, but in 2013 there were 35,000 fewer medical assisting graduates, 105,000 in total, which is a drop of 25 percent over the two year period. Most of this drop was in the private for profits sector.

The Drop in Medical Assistant Completions is Not Typical of the Market

The number of graduates from medical assisting programs declined a lot more than the number of graduates from all programs overall. Over the same time period, there was only a 1 percent drop in overall completion rates across all programs in the US. The completions for private for profit programs were down by 14 percent, but that was still much less than the medical assisting completion rate, which was down by 25 percent. This decline in completions could be attributed to a decline in the number of students enrolling on medical assistant programs in the first place.

Medical Assistant Placement Rates by School Size and Degree Level

Medical Assistant Placement Rates by School Size and Degree Level

Given that there are fewer medical assistants graduating, one would expect the job placement rates for successful graduates to be good overall, but that doesn’t appear to be the situation. There is no statistically significant difference in the placement rate between schools with under 100 and over 100 completions.

Looking at 1 and 2 year and degree programs, there is actually not much difference in placement rates. For 1 year certificates, the placement rate is between 71-72 percent. For diplomas it is slightly lower, between 68-71 percent. The placement rate for degrees is slightly higher at 73-74 percent, but it is important to bear in mind that a 2 year degree will take twice as long as a 1 year certificate to complete, with only a 1-2 percent increase in the job placement rate.

Healthcare Spending

Healthcare Spending

So, does the fact that there are fewer graduates and placement rates are still not great overall mean there is less demand for medical assistants? Really the question should be is the healthcare market growing in a way that will mean more demand for medical assistants in the future?

In answer to that, all estimates predict healthcare expenditures to rise and the healthcare industry is forecast to grow to a $5 trillion sector of the economy by 2022 and to grow faster than any other sector. One of the costs of health expenditure is labor, within which is medical assisting.

Healthcare Industry Trends

Due to various factors, such as an aging population, a rise in the amount of treatments available, and the increase in obesity, there will be an increase in the need for healthcare. With regards to the aging population, people over 60 cost the healthcare industry 2-3 times as much per year as working age people.

There will also be a huge increase in the number of people overall who have access to healthcare due to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. It is estimated that an additional 9 million people will gain access to healthcare, as well as all those who were on plans that didn’t cover them for pre-existing conditions.

Huge changes in the delivery of healthcare are required as a result of the Affordable Care Act, which is putting pressure on both costs and quality of outcomes. Importantly, many patients will increasingly receive treatment away from the hospital, in outpatient clinics, in doctor’s offices and at home, as hospitals are the highest cost venues in the healthcare system.

Another trend is that people are having to work to the top of their license. A doctor will only do things only a doctor can do and will delegate tasks that can be done by a nurse to a nurse, who will in turn delegate work that can be done by a medical assistant to a medical assistant.

This is resulting in more demand for lower skilled employees. There are also changes in what can be done by medical assistants.

Implications for Medical Assisting

This general increase in demand for healthcare means there will be more patients and thus more demand for medical assistants to take care of them. The shift in treatment to lower cost ambulatory venues such as doctor’s offices, where the majority of medical assistants are employed, also means an increased need for medical assistants.

Medical assistants have the advantages of being multi-skilled, with the flexibility to provide low level clinical care as well as perform administrative tasks, combined with relatively few regulatory constraints, which makes them appealing employees to healthcare providers.

Electronic patient records mean a growing demand for medical assistants with informatic skills. It is important to note that a certified medical assistant can be counted towards the Meaningful Use statistics, which means the demand for certified medical assistants will increase, as only those with certification will be counted.

With the focus on treatment away from hospitals, sicker patients requiring more care will be released to their homes, rehabilitation facilities and nursing homes, and will require someone with the right level of training to help them, so there could be an increase in medical assisting jobs in this field.
Medical assistants may also be in demand to fulfill non-traditional roles or those that were previously done by doctors or nurses, such as health coaches, health communicators and patient care coordinators.

As the delivery of healthcare changes there will be more demand for medical assisting skills, especially professionalism, clinical knowledge and informatics. With the prevalence of geriatric and obesity issues, medical assistants may choose to get specialized training in these areas to differentiate themselves in the job market.

The Medical Assistant Job Market

So what is happening in the medical assistant job market? The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts the demand for medical assistants will continue to grow at a similar rate of around 2.6-3 percent over the next decade. But this could be a conservative estimate according to data published by WANTED Analytics, which looks at job postings on the internet. This data shows the number of medical assistant job postings rose around 11.5 percent a year in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and this figure was around 12 percent for 2014 (at the time of the report). This suggests that the annual increase in demand for medical assistants is likely to be closer to 10 percent than 3 percent, which is a much bigger growth than in other job markets.

In the period 2011-2013 there was a 25 percent increase in job postings, while at the same time the number of completions dropped by around 25 percent. This gap between the number of medical assisting graduates and the number of jobs is a growing opportunity for medical assistants, as it means less competition for jobs and may even result in a shortage of workers with medical assisting skills.

Employment and Job Postings per Completion

Employment and Job Postings per Completion

Back in 2011 the market was quite saturated, with 1.1 job postings for every graduate, and 3.8 people working as medical assistants for every medical assisting graduate. From 2012 onward these numbers have risen, so the number of job postings per graduate increased to 1.3 in 2012, 1.8 in 2013 and was estimated to grow to 2.3 in 2014 at the time of the report, suggesting twice as many job postings as there are graduates.

It is important to remember that many of these job vacancies will be taken by people who are already working as medical assistants rather than new graduates, but even so the employment outlook for newly qualified medical assistants is much improved than it was only a few years ago. Figures for 2014 suggest there will be 6.4 people employed as medical assistants for every graduate that year, which is almost twice as many as back in 2011, which is good news for the overall employment prospects of medical assistants.

What Venues will Employ Medical Assistants in the Future?

So where exactly will medical assistants work in the future? Offices of Physicians are the largest venue for medical assistant employment today, and this is also one of the fastest growing sectors, forecast to increase 27 percent through 2022.

The venue with the fastest growth in medical assistant jobs is outpatient care centers, where jobs are likely to increase by 57 percent. Hospitals have the slowest growth of any venue, around 9 percent, although being the largest employers with 7,100 new jobs. It is worth knowing that although the majority of medical assistant jobs are in physician’s offices not hospitals, many physician’s offices are part of hospital chains, so the hospital HR department may post the jobs and handle the recruitment process.

The concept of patient centred medical homes means there will be satisfaction metrics for those providers, meaning that customer satisfaction will matter more than it did in the past. As a medical assistant is often the first person that a patient sees, their interpersonal and communication skills are very important in terms of satisfaction ratings for patient centred medical care facilities. Professionalism of medical assistants will become even more important.

With an increase in patient centred medical care providers, which are most likely to be ambulatory facilities where medical assistants are prevalent, there should be an increased demand for medical assistants.

What skills and qualifications are employers looking for in medical assistants?

Looking at the job postings data, a consistent requirement is proficiency in Electronic Medical Records. With the Meaningful Use regulations the ability to handle healthcare records is becoming increasingly important. Some employers are looking for specialist skill sets such as bilingual (Spanish), pediatrics, geriatrics and quality assurance. It is clear that employers require medical assistants with a combination of clinical skills and electronic administrative skills.

Professionalism is a key skill required in getting a job. Doctor’s offices may be willing to train someone that fits their environment, but they are unlikely to hire someone that lacks the professional skills needed to work in front of patients.

How important is Certification?

The data showed that many employers specifically wanted to hire medical assistants with some type of certification. The CMA credential (Certified Medical Assistant) was the most commonly required type, requested in 20,000 job postings, which is nearly 25 percent of postings that were looked at in the report. Other titles were also mentioned, such as RMA, NCMA and CCMA.

This suggests that being certified is becoming increasingly important for medical assistants. Medical assistants without credentials can improve their chances in the job market by finding out which exam they could take to get a certification. Some exams require graduation from a programmatically accredited program. However, the CCMA exam is open to those with experience in the field and who have graduated from an institutionally accredited program. It is worth taking test prep courses before taking the exam. Given the emphasis on certification these days, many schools include exam preparation courses as part of their medical assisting programs and encourage students to sit a certification exam upon graduation.

Certification is likely to become even more important due to the Meaningful Use requirements in the Affordable Care Act that stipulate only certified medical assistants will count towards Meaningful Use statistics. Doctor’s offices will be allowed to earn incentives for employing certified medical assistants, whereas uncertified medical assistants do not qualify them for the incentives.

Job Placement Rates

Schools display their job placement rates in their disclosure statements on their websites. For a graduate to be included in the statistics they must be employed in medical assisting or a closely related field. With fewer medical assisting graduates and more jobs available, the percentage of newly qualified medical assistants finding a job should be good. However, BLS statistics show only a very small correlation between placement rates and job openings. So what affects a program’s job placement rate?

What are the Effects of Campus Size on Placement?

The data showed that the median placement rate for medical assistant programs is similar regardless of school size at just under or over 70 percent. There is not much difference between the placement rates for an average school with only 25 students compared to an average school with over 300 students. Placement rates actually vary widely between schools of the same size, from around 68-80 percent. It appears that school size does not play a part in placement rates.

What Do the Top-Performing Medical Assistant Programs have in common?

It appears that the key to good job placement rates is good management, with well managed programs placing the most graduates. Gray Associates analyzed a selection of the top medical assistant schools – defined by a job placement rate of 80 percent or better – which varied in size, growth rate and geography. They concluded that “placement of medical assistants is a function of the quality of the school and its placement effort, not a function of the market in which the school participates”.

What are the Best Practices of the Medical Assistant Programs with the top placement rates?

So what do these best performing schools do to place a higher percentage of their medical assisting graduates than other schools? The report found comprehensive similarities in how these schools attract, train and place students and develop their students during the process.

Attracting Students

It could be assumed that the better performing schools would be more selective in their admissions process, for example accepting only students with a high GPA or better SAT scores who would be most likely to graduate. Perhaps they screened for felonies and other criminal penalties, or looked for students from the most attractive neighborhoods. Actually the schools in this study had open admissions policies. Most did not use IQ screening and only one or two screened for felonies. They accepted students from all neighborhoods.

What the top schools had in common was they were good at orientation. For example, they ran sessions to identify a student’s personal purpose for becoming a medical assistant and some set specific goals for each student. They made the applicants aware of the program details to make sure they understood the academic requirements of the courses and how they could fit the courses into their schedules.

Before the students began any classes the schools exercised professionalism by telling them what they would need to do in order to get a job at the end of their training, such as writing a resume, cleaning up their online presence or removing tattoos. The emphasis was that preparing for the job hunt began on the first day at school and should not be left until just before or after graduation.


The best schools encouraged their students to take certification exams upon graduation and as such designed their programs to prepare students for success in the exams. The focus was on the academic quality of the programs even if they were not programmatically accredited, and there were high expectations placed on their faculty of performance in the certification exams.

Programmatic accreditation provides an external benchmark for academic programs and this appears to be particularly important for smaller schools where it can be hard to keep track of all the changes and requirements in medical assisting. If a program is accredited, the accrediting body keeps the school up to date on what needs to be changed within the program and provides a benchmark for the quality of the education.

The medical assisting schools with the best placement rates placed a strong emphasis on coaching, especially for at risk students. The teaching staff were professional and committed to their students, being demanding but at the same time caring for the individuals and having a belief in each student’s ability to succeed. It is very important that instructors believe in their students, who are often from disadvantaged backgrounds, have not done well in high school and have limited financial resources. Often students doubt their abilities and instructors play an important role in instilling the confidence they need to succeed in their studies and job hunt.

Developing Students

The top-performing schools were found to place an emphasis on the importance of professionalism right from the start of the program, not just towards the end in preparation for the externship. Professionalism includes appearance, communication, clothing, dentistry, hygiene and tattoo removal. One of the best schools offered free services to help students improve their chances of getting a job, such as a parlor that volunteered to remove tattoos and a dentist who could fix or replace teeth.

Many of the schools with the best placement rates helped students to use software to monitor and clean up their online presence, such as their Facebook pages, so that employers would not find evidence of inappropriate behaviors. One school even helped students to expunge criminal records such as arrest records and other incidents not leading to conviction, so these would not impede their ability to get a job.

Placing Students

The management of the externship program had a big impact on placement rates for the best-performing schools. Those schools with a lower percentage of graduates getting a medical assisting job had a few things in common. They often had externships that were run by the faculty, or the externship site wasn’t carefully monitored, or there was a lack of communication or discipline with externship sites that took students on as a form of free labor but didn’t go on to hire them.

In contrast, the better-performing schools ran a very organized and disciplined externship program in partnership with the faculty, excluding externship sites that provided a bad experience or didn’t go on to hire graduates. Sites were also advised on ways in which they could improve the externship experience for students.

Representatives from the placement organization visited the externship sites to meet the sponsors and students to assess how the externship was progressing. Students received instruction to prepare them for the externship experience in advance, so they knew what to expect, what the standards for success were and the importance of key things such as professionalism, punctuality and appearance.

Both in the job placement process and the externship process, the top medical assistant schools focused on matching students to the best suited jobs and employers. For instance, a student who struggled a bit under pressure would be matched to a less high paced job in an extended care environment, where they would fit in better than in a busy doctor’s office with many patients coming into the office and calling on the phone. The students that were best able to succeed in a high pressure environment were put into matching jobs. Those with less people skills were matched with more administrative or records keeping roles.

The final best practice was having a well managed advisory board made up of many people, where any employer could join. Often their meetings included over 20 employers. The other important aspect is that at each advisory board meeting careful notes were taken on what was said, so that at the start of each meeting there was a readjustment of the progress made against the suggestions from the previous meeting. This ensured that the advice of the advisory board was clearly listened to in the instruction and management of the medical assisting program.

What is the future for online medical assistant programs?

Advances in technology mean there are some cutting edge things happening in medical assistant education. As a result, online medical assisting programs are becoming more common, usually as a part of a traditional on-ground program, although some independent online programs are available. Schools are able to use the internet to provide online resources and materials to enhance the classroom experience.

Schools can provide resources where students can go to run simulations online or get extra practice in behaviors they have learned in a lab, which is particularly useful in preparation for an externship. For example, students may be able go through an online simulation of giving an x-ray.

The Future is Bright for Medical Assistants

To conclude, the future for medical assistants looks promising. There will be a growing need for healthcare, meaning more jobs for medical assistants. These jobs are most likely to be in doctor’s offices and ambulatory venues. Professionalism, Electronic Medical Records skills and certification will become increasingly important. Job placement rate should be considered when selecting a medical assistant program. The best schools have well-run externships, prepare their students for certification exams and help them in their job search by supporting them over the course of their training. If you want a rewarding career in the growing healthcare industry, medical assisting could be for you.


Comprehensive Research Study of the Medical Assisting Profession by Bob Atkins, CEO of Gray Associates



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7 Habits of Highly Effective Nursing Students

Nursing school is challenging, whether you’re a new student or a seasoned professional in an RN to BSN. Between the volume of material to cover, the hours of studying to understand it all and learning to care for patients, nursing students have to work hard to stay on top of it all.

The good news is that it is possible to do a great job in nursing school and still have time for family, friends and fun. Making these seven habits a part of your life can make you a more effective – and successful – nursing student, no matter what stage you’re in.

Habit 1: Manage Your Time

There’s a reason this is the first habit to master: it’s the most important! Balancing classes, studying, work, family obligations and a personal life takes some serious planning.

Break each day into blocks of time and then decide what’s the most important thing for each block. For example, you know you need time to sleep. Will you manage to get eight hours every day? Or should you plan for seven? Proper sleep is the foundation for a healthy, stress-free nursing school experience, so don’t skimp on it.

Schoolwork is the next important chunk for nursing school students. Tests, papers, and important assignments all require a certain amount of study time. Plan ahead and block out sufficient study time every day. Try not to let it get away from you.

Working nurses who are studying for a BSN need to become experts at balancing school, studying and their shifts, often while caring for family members.

That’s where strict scheduling helps.

Enlist your family to keep a master calendar so everyone knows when you’re working, going to class and studying. And be sure to schedule some free time for the things you like to do, whether it’s working out, reading, listening to music or spending time with your family. That balance will help you get through the rigors of nursing school.

Habit 2: Study Smart

Some people can cram for a test and make it work. But in nursing, you really have to understand the material and how to apply it in real-world situations. You’ll be using your reasoning skills to apply the right choices to different conditions, and not choosing between answers “A” or “B” on a test. That’s why you need to study smart. Try these ideas to make your study time work more effectively for you:

Study effectively. Don’t spend four hours on something that should really take two. Try dividing a four-hour study block into four, one-hour study segments, and space them out a bit. You’ll probably comprehend the material much better and finish faster.
Avoid distractions. When you sit down to study, put away any books, materials and devices that you don’t need. Avoid the temptation to check your texts or social media.
Review classwork ahead of time. Read through text before you get to class.
Practice. When you finish a section of reading, run through some practice test questions. See if you can answer them without your notes.
Give yourself enough time. Most students underestimate the amount of time it will take to finish an assignment, study or write a paper. Be realistic.

Habit 3: Ask for Help

This is a tough one! For most of us, asking for help seems like a sign of weakness or failure, but it’s not. Seek out someone who’s been in your nursing shoes, and can offer advice or just listen. They’ll help you get through the difficult spots.

Habit 4: Focus

Now more than ever, nursing students are multi-tasking. It’s so easy to get distracted by a message or alert, and get way off track. The fact is that almost no one is good at multi-tasking. So try to focus on one thing at a time. Eliminate distractions by organizing your study space, and turn off your phone, TV and music. When you focus on studying, you’ll finish faster, leaving more time for catching up on social media and your favorite shows.

Habit 5: Make Realistic Goals

Keep it real, and you’ll be much more successful in reaching your goals. Sure, it would be great to study for eight hours over the weekend, but is it really possible? Can you aim for four and make that happen? How about setting daily goals like covering one major section and one smaller chapter? You’ll feel better about yourself when you make and reach smaller goals along the way to the big goal – your BSN degree.

Habit 6: Be Proactive

Planning ahead and staying on top of your assignments will save you lots of time, and prevent a rush to complete everything right before the end of the term. Also, take the initiative to ask questions of your instructors. Find out early about their standards and preferences, and you’ll complete assignments right the first time.

Habit 7: Reward Yourself

With all the challenges of nursing school, it’s not easy to do your best over the long haul. You will probably get tired of studying when you’d rather be spending time with your family or friends. That’s when it’s time to set a goal and reward yourself when you reach it. Getting into the habit of motivating yourself, controlling your behavior and doing something nice for yourself will take you far, both in nursing school and in your career.

These 7 Habits Can Make Nursing School Better

Creating good habits can make nursing school much easier, no matter how challenging it can be. Managing your time, being proactive, rewarding yourself, studying smart, focusing and asking for help will keep you happy and healthy while you earn that degree. Also, consider online nursing programs, which are designed for working professionals, and allow you to attend classes as your schedule permits.


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Medical Assisting Career Description

A Medical Assistant is responsible for completing administrative and clinical tasks for healthcare facilities and providers. Additionally, these professionals take and record confidential patient information using Electronic Health Records, only discussing this information with other professionals who are helping to treat a patient.

“One of the greatest parts of entering medical assisting is that this career in healthcare can be an entry point to other nursing and patient care positions,” a Certified Medical Assistant in South Carolina, said.

Education & Training

To become a Medical Assistant, a professional is typically required to graduate from a post-secondary education program such as Sumner College to obtain a certificate. This takes 7.5 months to complete.  In some states, there are no formal educational requirements, but many employers prefer to hire Medical Assistants who have obtained certification.

Usually education requirements depend on the state, but most require at least a technical diploma.


To advance in a career as a MA, a person can continue their education and learn a specialization. Alternatively an MA can advance by moving into a team leader or supervisory role.

So, in the field as a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA), some professionals choose to pursue additional education, perhaps earning an Associate’s Degree. Others develop specializations, such as becoming an Administrative Medical Assistant, Clinical Medical Assistant, Ophthalmic Medical Assistants or Podiatric Medical Assistant, and move into leadership roles.

Experience & Skills

To become a successful Medical Assistant, professionals should be able to use Electronic Health Records to record patient history and data, measure vital signs and help physicians perform patient examinations as needed. Medical Assistants must possess important technical skills so that they can operate basic clinical instruments such as stethoscopes, blood pressure monitors, syringes and needles. They should also be able to give patients injections or medications (as directed by a physician and as permitted by State law), schedule appointments and prepare blood samples for laboratory testing.

To perform the necessary responsibilities, MA’s need to know medical terminology, ICD 10 codes, basic pharmacology, how to draw blood and how to take vital signs.


Medical Assistants should possess strong interpersonal and analytical skills, as patients need to be able to discuss personal information and problems with these professionals. They should also be detail oriented, and able to accurately record and relay patient information/data, as well as to collect data/results and code a patient’s medical records for billing. And empathy is the most important characteristic.


Most CMAs work full-time, and many work evenings, weekends or holidays to accommodate patients and to ensure that all shifts are covered within facilities that are constantly open.

A Medical Assistant’s day is usually very busy. They are usually the patient’s first point of contact with the healthcare facility.


There’s no better time to beginning a path toward becoming a Medical Assistant than now! With Medical Assistants having held about 634,400 positions coupled with a projected growth of 23 percent over the next decade, this profession has proven to become increasingly in demand.

With the majority working in primary care facilities, a steadily growing sector within the healthcare industry, the highest employing facilities of Medical Assistants are the offices of Physicians, state, local and private hospitals, outpatient care centers and the offices of Chiropractors.


There is great salary potential in a career as a Certified Medical. Assistant. For example, the median annual wage for someone in the role was $34,800, whereas the top 10 percent made more than $48,720. While the lowest 10 percent made less than $25,820 there exists great potential for raises and advancement.

Additionally, the highest paying employers include outpatient care centers, state, local and private hospitals, the offices of physicians and chiropractors.

Some content inspired by Careers in Healthcare.



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What is the Difference Between an RN and a BSN?

When people hear or see the abbreviations RN and BSN, they often think they are the same things, but there is a difference between an RN and a BSN. In fact, they are two very distinct and different things. An individual with a BSN is going to be an RN, but an RN does not necessarily always have a BSN. Sound confusing? Here is a more in-depth description of the differences between an RN and a BSN.

What is an RN?

The letters RN are used to designate the credential of Registered Nurse. A registered nurse is an individual who provides and coordinates patient care, educates the community about health issues, educates patients on healthcare and provides support to patients and their families. Beside every doctor, you will probably find an RN assisting. To become an RN, an individual must complete a formal training program, which consists of coursework, lab studies and clinical rotations.

Once the training has been completed, the student must pass the NCLEX-RN to obtain licensure, which is required in all states. An individual can become an RN in one of these three ways.

What is a BSN?

The BSN, which stands for Bachelor of Science in Nursing, is a degree level program in nursing. Unlike the associate’s degree and diploma nursing programs, which can be completed in two years, the BSN requires four years of study. The student completes the same nursing curriculum but also takes general education courses. A graduate of a BSN typically also has more career opportunities available to them than the individual with the associate’s degree or the diploma.

Career Opportunities for RNs with a BSN

There are many career opportunities for RNs who complete the BSN program. Nurse Journal states that many nursing students choose the diploma or associate degree program so they can begin their careers sooner but choose to pursue the BSN later in their careers. Since they already have nursing degrees, they can typically earn the BSN in two years rather than the usual four years. Having a bachelor’s degree allows RNs the chance to pursue specialized areas of nursing and earn higher wages.

Some of specialized areas of nursing can be obtained after a few years of experience working as RNs, and some require some additional training. Here are some career opportunities for RNs with a BSN.

Career Outlook for RNs

RNs are highly in demand and are expected to see a job growth of 15 percent between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The gaining population continues to be in need of qualified healthcare professionals like RNs. As RNs retire, there will also be a need for more RNs. As of May 2017, RNs earned annual wages that ranged from $48,690 to more than $104,100.

While an individual can become an RN through a couple of different paths, RNs with a BSN typically find the best career opportunities and wage potentials. Knowing the difference between an RN and a BSN can help an aspiring RN choose the right program and degree level.

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Medical Assistant Salary & Employment

Medical assisting is one of the national careers growing much faster than average for all occupations, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, attributing job growth to the following:

Because medical assistants can work in a variety of health centers, salary is likely to differ from industry to industry. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for medical assistants in 2018 was $33,610. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,790, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $47,250.

From 2016 to 2026, medical assisting employment is projected to grow 29 percent, which is much higher than the national average. As the baby boomer population ages, there will be an increased demand for preventive medical care. As a result, doctors will expand their practices to hire more medical assistants to handle administrative and clinical duties, which will allow care centers to see more patients.

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What Are the Roles & Duties of a Medical Assistant?

Medical Assisting is a vital position in the healthcare industry. They assist the provider with a number of task and to name a few, here are the specific clinical duties that they may perform:

Additionally, Medical Assistants perform a number of administrative duties within the healthcare industry. Here is a list of administrative duties they may perform:

If you are interested in learning more about about a rewarding career as a medical assistant, visit our Medical Assisting Program page on the website.



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Top 9 Advantages of a BSN Degree

The field of nursing is a quickly growing field; the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that registered nurse employment will increase by 19% from 2012-22.

But there are several paths to becoming a registered nurse: earning a 1-2 year RN diploma, earning a 2 year associate’s degree, or earning a 4 year bachelor’s degree, or BSN.

Earning your BSN eventually is the smartest thing you can do for your nursing career.

#1 BSN Holders Make More Money has just released 2014 data that shows there are major salary difference between people with an RN and a BSN. The RN will earn a median of $39,100, and a BSN holder will earn more than $69,000:

#2 Some Nursing Careers Open Only to BSN Holders

Having a bachelor’s degree is essential to be admitted to most graduate nursing programs. Four of the highest paying nursing jobs – nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist and clinical nurse specialist – require you to have a BSN.

Keep in mind that a BSN is essential if you ever want to get out of basic clinical care. Many nurses do not want to be working the floor when they are 60 years old. They want to move into administration or teaching. This is possible only with a BSN or higher degree.

#3 BSN Curriculum Teaches Much More Than Clinical Skills

RNs with a diploma usually learn just the basics of clinical care. As a BSN holder, you will have learned much more – communication, critical thinking and leadership skills. These are essential skills if you want to move into higher paying jobs with more responsibility.

The AACN also recognizes the BSN as the minimum educational requirement for professional nursing practice.

#4 Research Shows That BSN Holders Offer Better Patient Care

The American Association of the Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has collected extensive research that indicates that higher nursing education makes a major difference in clinical outcomes. Nurses with a BSN have better patient outcomes, including lower mortality rates and lower failure to rescue rates as well. The research also indicates that BSN holders have higher proficiency in making good diagnoses.

#5 Hospitals Seek Magnet’ Designation, and Want Higher Educated Nurses

The magnet’ designation, awarded by the American Nurses Association, is highly coveted by hospitals, and has been given to 400 hospitals to date. One of the key requirements of earning the designation is the education level of the nursing staff.

For example, the ANA requires that 75% of nurse managers have a BSN as of Jan. 1, 2011, and 100% had to have a BSN by Jan. 1, 2013. Also, 48% of nurses have to have a BSN or higher.

#6 BSN Holders Are Eligible for Many More Posted Nurse Jobs

According to a recent study by, in a study of 187,000* nurse job posts over three months, there were the following education requirements in the posts:

What this shows is that a nurse with an RN diploma is eligible for 51% of the positions, while a person with a BSN is eligible for 88%. Further, the study showed that the mean salary for a BSN holder was $10,000 higher.

#7 Earning a BSN Is Easier Than Ever

In recent years, there has been an explosion in BSN programs, given the great demand for nursing professionals. Many of these programs are online. This allows you to earn your BSN from the comfort of your own home, with minimal need to visit the college campus.

#8 Earning a BSN May Be a Requirement in the Future

If you want to start out your career with an RN diploma, that is fine. It will allow you to gain some nursing experience. But you should know that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published a study recently on the nursing profession. It recommended that BSN holders be increased from 50% to 80% by 2020. Nurses are being strongly encouraged to get their BSN within five years of earning a diploma or an associate’s degree.

The AACN is following the recommendations of the IOM and is also making the same recommendation. As these large, respected medical institutions make these recommendations, employers in the health care field tend to follow them as well. This means that many health care employers could require that their nurses earn their BSN by 2020.

#9 BSN Connected to Higher Professional Advancement

Your BSN will open your career up to fascinating specialities in pediatrics, gynecology, surgery, oncology, diabetes, psychiatry and more. With only an RN, you are going to be very limited in your career advancement. It is difficult to ever advance beyond basic floor patient care with an RN diploma.

*Source: (analysis of nurse job postings, 4/25/2013-7/21/2013)

Content shared from NurseJournal

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BSN Guide – Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree: Salary, Benefits & Programs

When you choose a career in nursing, you are committing yourself to play a critical role in the medical system. Depending upon where and how you choose to practice, your responsibilities can range from hands-on care to research, to helping create public healthcare policy. Your career path begins with the type of degree that you pursue.  A BSN, or Bachelor of Science in Nursing, is the degree that offers you the widest range of possibilities.

Nurses who have earned their BSN degree will find themselves eligible to apply for many more positions and earning much higher compensation. They will be able to pursue graduate degrees in nursing and will receive training in more advanced skills, including those involving leadership and critical thinking.

In this comprehensive guide, we have collected the information you need to know what pursuing your BSN entails, from why a BSN degree is a smart choice to helping you find the best programs and learn how to pay for your education.

A BSN, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, is a four-year degree in nursing that is one of two degrees available to nurses. Unlike the ADN, the BSN degree provides two years of prerequisite courses and general education courses followed by another two years of nursing classes and clinical rotations. Becoming a Registered Nurse with a BSN degree promises higher compensation and opens many more doors. Many healthcare facilities have begun to require that their RNs have a BSN degree, even for entry-level nursing positions.

Though the shortest route to becoming a Registered Nurse is to pursue the minimum requirement — a two-year Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) which provides just enough education and clinical training for graduates to sit for the required exams and obtain their license — those who want to become RNs are strongly encouraged to pursue a BSN.

Having a BSN gives you more opportunities to practice in specialty areas and puts you on a career path that can lead to supervisory and management positions. This is because those positions require a more in-depth level of knowledge and critical thinking skills that the four-year degree provides.  Having a BSN is also a required step for pursuing an advanced nursing degree such as an MSN (Master of Science in Nursing), a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice), NP (Nurse Practitioners), or CNS (Clinical Nurse Specialist).

Though every BSN curriculum is different, accredited nursing programs follow the framework provided by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, which outlines the essential curriculum contents and core competencies needed to prepare a BSN for their role and responsibilities. In addition to offering basic prerequisite coursework and general education classes, including Math, Composition, and History, followed by coursework that is specific to their nursing practice, including

BSN studies also include a significant number of clinical training hours.

RN-to-BSN Program

This program is the next step for Registered Nurses who have earned their Associate’s degree and who want to advance their careers and knowledge. With the advantage of already having learned a great deal of the pertinent information and having extensive clinical exposure, an ADN can often take exams to test out of some of the required coursework. Many of these programs are offered online to allow students to continue working while taking classes. Most students can complete the RN-to-BSN program in less than two years. Visit Sumner College’s RN to BSN program HERE.


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Why Should You Earn a BSN? It May Soon Be a Requirement

According to the landmark announcement of the 2010 Future of Nursing report by the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine), 80% of all practicing RNs should have their BSN by 2020

This isn’t a demand or a law, but it’s informed speculation based on research showing that a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is important for the nursing profession. If you are thinking about becoming a nurse, it is probably a good plan to start with a BSN or have a clear path to get your RN to BSN or ADN to BSN. Nurses with a BSN, or another higher degree, are considered more valuable and sought after than nurses with a diploma or an associate’s degree.

What Is the Difference Between BSN and ADN Nurses?

The associate’s degree requires two years of study compared with a baccalaureate program which typically takes four years to finish. The Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) will provide the foundation needed to take the NCLEX and will allow you to become a registered nurse (RN). However, the ADN nurse does not have nearly the same depth or intensity of coursework as the BSN nurse. From communication to in-depth psychology courses, there are many requirements covered by the BSN that do not fit into the ADN course schedule.

One of the biggest differences between the BSN and ADN degrees are the clinical requirements. BSN-prepared nurses have to complete clinicals that require them to work out their education in real-life settings with the oversight of a professor. These intensive settings are one example of how a BSN program can better prepare nurses with increased field experience.

Most hospitals acknowledge this difference by offering higher pay to RNs with a BSN. While an entry-level ADN nurse will make around $40,000 each year, a BSN nurse starts at over $70,000 on average. Both start as entry-level roles in hospitals and other healthcare settings but, as they move up, BSN nurses become the top 25% highest earners in their field, averaging around $82,000. As hospitals clearly demonstrate with their pay scales, there is a big difference between the ADN RN and the BSN RN in terms of the level of education and skillsets.

Why Is a BSN Important?

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) expects BSN nurses to be educated on topics including communication, community education, patient education, nurse management, clinicals, leadership, patient psychology, and more. These differences have led to better patient outcomes and lower mortality rates.

The University of West Florida has published studies showing a clear relationship between higher education and better nursing practices. Lower mortality rates, fewer failure-to-rescues, and fewer post-surgery complications were seen in hospitals with higher percentages of BSN-prepared nurses. A decrease in stay times and patient deaths was also clearly linked to the increase of BSN nurses on the hospital staff. A study from the University of Michigan even reported that as many as 10.9% fewer deaths occurred with just a 10% increase in the proportion of BSN-prepared nurses on the floor.

Studies showing these outcomes have led to a push for increasing the number of BSN-prepared nurses to 80% in hospitals. And hospitals continue to recognize the importance of nurses who are better prepared to communicate with patients and have the experience to deal with an onslaught of cases.

Will a BSN Be Mandatory for the Nursing Profession?

Since 1964, there has been a push to require a BSN for all nurses in healthcare settings. This isn’t a change that will happen overnight but the medical field is currently facing a shortage of qualified nurses. This is projected to become an even greater gap in the workforce, with the National Nursing Workforce Survey reporting that nurses over 50 make up half of the current RNs in the United States.

Over 10 years ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) wrote a Future of Nursing Report that highlighted eight areas where nurses could improve US health care. One of the goals was to increase the number of nurses hired with BSN degrees. According to the report, nurses that finished baccalaureate training were better equipped to handle the increasing complexity in the nursing field.

In California, nursing graduates with a BSN increased from 54% to 60% in seven years (from 2010 to 2017). This was largely due to universities working directly with community colleges to create seamless ADN to BSN programs.

The “BSN in 10” Law

Some states, specifically New York, have adopted laws requiring nurses to continue their education past an ADN. The law gives nurses 10 years to obtain a BSN after becoming an RN. This controversial bill from 2017 states:

“The legislature finds that expanding the educational requirements for the profession of nursing, while maintaining the multiple entry points into the profession, is needed. (…)  This proposal is the result of a growing body of research evidence that additional education results in better patient outcomes. Therefore by requiring the baccalaureate degree for continued registration as a registered professional nurse, this legislation seeks to be responsive to meet the increasingly complex health care needs of the residents of New York state.”

While this law only impacts New York nurses, it could be considered a test for other states. It follows the example of other countries that already require higher education degrees, like a baccalaureate, to enter the nursing profession. This law only impacts nurses who have not started their studies since it was adopted, grandfathering in those who already joined the profession.

“This legislation affects future nurses graduating from an associate’s degree or diploma nursing program who would be required to obtain a baccalaureate in nursing within ten years of initial licensure. (…) All current nurses licensed in New York and students in programs preparing for registered professional nursing are to be exempt from the new requirement.”

Is an Associate’s Degree in Nursing Worthwhile?

There are a lot of students looking for online nursing courses because they need to study at night or can’t afford four years of tuition. The ADN currently helps students get into the field and start working faster. So, in many cases, an associate’s degree can be the best option. However, most nurses should plan to further their education. RN to BSN courses allow working nurses to get their baccalaureate degree while they earn money as an RN. Some hospitals or healthcare centers will even pay for their employees to obtain higher degrees.

If you are able to get your BSN, a lot of statistics and nursing history will tell you that’s the best way to go. Even though it isn’t currently a requirement to start working as a nurse in most states, the future is strongly leaning towards an expectation for nurses to have a bachelor’s degree. It is even possible that a BSN will become a requirement within the next year.

Not only will having a BSN put you in a better position to get a job as a highly qualified RN, but it can also give you great career options. Getting your BSN and then advancing to a master’s or even a doctorate in nursing (DNP) can open doors for all kinds of career moves within the field.

Content shared from #EveryNurse

Sumner College now offers a 100% Online RN to BSN program. Learn more


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Where Do Medical Assistants Work?

Medical Assistants work in a variety of healthcare settings including but not limited to the following:

You can complete the Sumner College Medical Assisting program in 7.5 months and be on your way to a new career in healthcare in early 2021. Enroll today by completing an application.


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Medical Assistant Transition to a Nursing Career

Medical assistants are fortunate in that they learn a number of different clinical skills. Their role is to assist providers with requested and necessary tasks, and they are trained to perform basic clinical tasks such as:

Because medical assistants have a background in supporting medical providers in clinic, they may find transitioning to nursing goes smoother compared to those with little to no background in healthcare.

Your first step in becoming a career nurse is to enroll in nursing school. Sumner College can get you starter with their Medical Assisting program which can be completed in a 7.5 months giving you an advantage. Some nursing programs receive more student applicants than their nursing programs can allow in. Some schools grant admission based on prior healthcare experience, so the MA’s background may give you a leg-up when it comes to applying for a nursing program.

Check out Sumner College’s Medical Assistant Program HERE.

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