America is aging, requiring the services of an increasing number of health-care professionals. In rural northeastern Arizona, the demand for qualified healthcare workers continues to grow along with a surge in the number of physicians’ offices and outpatient care facilities utilizing technological advancements to perform procedures that were once handled only in hospitals.
That’s what makes being a Medical Doctor Assistant (MDA) so exciting. They perform side-by-side with doctors and other health professionals in providing competent, caring patient services in the medical office setting. As an MDA your responsibilities may include obtain-ing and preparing laboratory specimens, measuring vital signs, instructing patients about their medications, assisting doctors during examinations and procedures as well as scheduling patients, processing paperwork and more.
It’s an important job that is in high demand locally. “I receive calls from local physicians’ offices and Summit Healthcare almost weekly seeking qualified medical assistants,” said Connie Warren, coordinator of Allied Health programs at Northland Pioneer College. “Many of our recent MDA graduates were offered employment before they completed their required 160-hour externship!”
Such was the case for Lori Jackson, who is featured on the cover. She completed her externship (a learning opportunity provided by NPC that takes place in a medical office or facility) this past summer and was offered a full-time position in Dr. Schneider’s surgical offices.
“I love being able to help the doctor with minor surgical procedures and assisting patients,” Jackson said. But she admits the first day of her externship was a bit intimidating. “Dr. Schneider asked me to assist on a minor procedure. He would ask for an instrument, and I wasn’t sure which he wanted,” recounts Jackson. Her classes had provided a general overview of the various medical instruments, but not the specialized ones used by a surgeon. “He reassured me it was okay. I spent that evening reviewing the various instruments, and now know exactly which one he requests.”
A mother of three grown children, in 2004 Jackson worked for Dr. Flake’s office as an accountant for about three years, filling in occasionally on the front desk. “I really liked the medical field, but knew I would need additional training,” so she continued working in business.
From 2010-13, Jackson worked as a bank teller. “I enjoyed interacting with people, but was miserable. The job had changed and now required more sales, and I’m no salesperson. That’s when I quit and enrolled at NPC,” Jackson explains. It was the right decision.
Born and raised in Phoenix and a resident of the Lakeside area for 19 years, Jackson is now doing something she loves and is giving back to the community her husband’s family helped homestead years ago.
Medical doctor assisting is one of the country’s fastest-growing careers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Arizona averages 550 medical assisting openings statewide per month, ranking 10th in the nation. The median annual salary for an MDA in northern Arizona is $33,110.
NPC’s Professor Warren works indi-vidually with each medical assistant student to develop a personalized externship experience. The externship can be narrowly focused on an area of interest or broad; for example, at Summit Healthcare externs can rotate through several areas, such as OB/GYN, surgical, oncology or clinical practices.
“When students complete their externships, they are ‘job ready’,” said Warren. “The offices accepting NPC students for externships want to help them move through quickly and get out into the workforce, where they are needed. It also gives the host employer a chance to hire an extern who is already familiar with their particular operation.”
Students can be successfully employed after completing their CAS in as little as 18 months. But Warren encourages students to complete an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree, and even national certification exams, because certification is now a requirement in most medical offices. Completing your associate degree gives you an edge when applying for jobs as well as better pay options.
It is important to note that students need to move through the program’s courses in a specific order. “There are three clinical courses that must be completed in sequence: fall, spring and summer. The initial medical assistant clinical procedure course, MDA 124, is only offered during the fall semester,” stated Warren. Students starting the program in the spring semester can work on the pre- or co-requisite classes and then start the clinical procedure courses the following fall. It is vital that students meet with an academic adviser to plan their course sequencing. NPC’s MDA program does not lead into NPC’s nursing program or a nursing career.
To learn more about a career in medical assisting meet with an NPC academic adviser, or contact Connie Warren, (800) 266-7845, ext. 6159.
Other In-Demand Options
Another area of study offered by NPC is Nursing Assistant Training. Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) are employed in home health care, assisted-living and long-term care facilities. The median salary in northern Arizona is $28,980.
NPC’s Nursing Assistant program fully prepares you to pass the required state certification exam. Six courses are required to complete the Certificate of Proficiency. Current CNA licensure is also a prerequisite for admission to the NPC nursing program.
This fall, NAT classes were offered in five locations, with nine additional reservation locations being added for the spring semester. Speak with an NPC academic adviser for more information about this program.
Licensed Practical Nurse & Registered Nurse
Not only are the patients growing older, so are the registered nurses who provide medical care and the instructors who train their replacements.
“Currently one-third of the nursing population is over 55. That’s a scary number. For faculty, it’s more like 60 percent over the age of 60,” remarked Peg Erdman, NPC’s dean of Nursing and Allied Health programs.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projects that by 2025, Arizona will have the greatest shortfall of registered caretakers — a deficit of more than 28,000 nurses. That means lots of job opportunities for those entering this in-demand field. The median salary in northern Arizona for an LPN is $43,010 and for an RN is $68,040.
Showing compassion while caring for others is a hallmark of the NPC Nursing program. With instruction offered in Show Low and Winslow, students desiring the Registered Nurse (RN) credential must be willing to make a minimum three-year commitment.
NPC’s nursing program is nearly always at its capacity of 50 students. Prior to applying for the two-year Nursing program, students must be a currently state-licensed CNA and complete 23 credits of English, biology and chemistry courses. After the first year of nursing instruction, students can take the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) exam and, if they choose, exit the program and go to work. Those who choose to continue take an additional 21 credits that are required before taking the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN®) exam.
NPC’s nursing students exceed the national and Arizona pass rate on the NCLEX-RN® exam, averaging 91.23 percent over the past eight years, noted Dean Erdman. For the last five years, NPC’s pass rate on the LPN exam has been 100 percent!
“Our goal is to have our nursing grad-uates remain in our communities, and most do,” said Erdman. “In order to help NPC nursing students gain experience, Summit Healthcare developed a residency program, which benefits our graduates immensely,” she continued.
Students interested in enrolling in the nursing program should contact an NPC academic adviser or the nursing department, (800) 266-7845 ext. 6136, to begin completing prerequisite courses prior to applying for acceptance into the program. Pathways are also available to transition from paramedic to RN, or to renew an Arizona RN license.
Phlebotomist & Pharmacy Technician
Want to get into a healthcare profession in just one year or less?
NPC offers concentrated courses in phlebotomy and pharmacy technician. To qualify, a student must be at least 18 years old, be a legal U.S. resident, and have a clean criminal record. Both require externships, which may include additional requirements, but with the proper planning and commitment, can be completed in just nine months!
If you have ever had blood drawn for lab testing or donated blood, a trained phlebotomist probably performed the procedure. The median salary in northern Arizona for a phlebotomist is $31,410.
Students in NPC’s phlebotomy course learn the history, theory, and required forms of asepsis and procedures for venipuncture, finger or infant heel sticks. Students perform hands-on practice in the classroom and during a community clinical externship.
A medical terminology course, offered via several of NPC’s interactive instruc-tion formats, is required before a student can register for the phlebotomy course. Enrollment in phlebotomy is limited to 14 students in Show Low and 12 in Winslow so be sure to register early.
Pharmacy Technician training is a single eight-credit course that prepares students for the national Pharmacy Technician Certification Board exam required to obtain a license in Arizona and most other states.
Pharmacy technicians enjoy variety in their jobs assisting pharmacists. They prepare medications, dispense prescriptions, answer questions about medications, measure dosages and label containers. In some pharmacies, the technician also handles purchasing, inventory control and billing. The median salary in northern Arizona for a pharmacy technician is $33,960.
Tuition, fees, textbooks, fingerprinting and state trainee license cost around $950. A 120-hour paid or unpaid externship is also required to supplement classroom instruction. NPC does not offer this course every semester, so be sure to speak to an academic adviser to plan your enrollment.
– Everett Robinson