Medical assisting students stay in step with cohort program

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New system began this fall, encourages camaraderie.

By Cynthia Herrera

A new program at this college will route future medical assistants along an identical path toward graduation.

This fall, 19 medical assisting students began the cohort system.

“This is the first time we start the program,” said program coordinator Hal Buntley. “It’s the same classes, but the courses are built on each other.”

Cohort students must be full time. The program requires them to take classes in a specific order, based on an outline built for the program. Each year, starting in the fall, up to 24 students will be able to enroll in the program. They go through the program together, which encourages collaboration and creates a “family” of students, said Stella Lovato, chair of the allied health department.

Buntley said he prefers this system, rather than students taking courses on their own schedule, because it helps students retain information as well as finish courses in a “timely fashion” for graduation.

The medical assisting program offers a year-and-a-half certificate and a two-year associate degree.

The medical assisting program started in 1969 and was the first accredited program in the United States.

Medical assistants on average receive $12-$14 per hour. They are not to be confused with nurses, who can work in hospitals; medical assistants can only work in doctors’ offices, Buntley said.

Students near graduation must take the capstone course, which is a practicum that consists of working in a doctor’s office. Students are graded over a six-week period with 40 hours per week, totaling 240 hours.

Eighty percent of graduates are hired after graduation by the doctor’s office they worked for.

Buntley, a retired Army nurse, worked for 22 years as an intensive care nurse and combat medic. He also taught Navy SEALs and Green Berets.

He has been a medical assisting professor for 15 years and has been teaching at this college for 12 years.


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